Who Deserves Citizenship? Evaluating the Preferences of British Nationals Using a Choice-Based Conjoint Experiment

Victoria Donnaloja , University of Essex

Who deserves British citizenship? Little empirical work has investigated the preferences of the majority population. I employ a choice-based conjoint analysis experiment design on a representative sample of 1,597 British nationals recruited by the YouGov polling agency in 2018 to analyse the grounds on which people believe immigrants are entitled to citizenship. Each respondent had to choose whether to grant naturalisation to five pairs of fictitious applicants with different combinations of characteristics, such as their country of origin. I find that respondents granted citizenship to 77% of profiles on average. This rate of approval is lower for respondents who voted to leave the EU as opposed to remain, it increases with respondents’ educational level and it decreases with their age and income. Nonetheless, it remains over 60% across groups, in contrast with data on broader anti-immigration sentiments. The attributes that had the biggest impact on the probability of being awarded citizenship are occupation and religion. Respondents were more likely to reject citizenship applications of immigrants who were Muslim and had a low paying job or no occupation. Other attributes that had a positive effect on the likelihood of the granting of citizenship were British ancestry, length of residence and English proficiency. Strikingly, the profile of the preferred immigrant applicant did not vary by respondents’ level of income, education, Brexit voting behaviour and age. These findings reflect mechanisms of perceived threat and deservingness that resonate with the values of the wider British policy context and political climate. I discuss policy implications.

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 Presented in Session 78. Flash Session Migration and Migrants