Social Responsibility and Sustainability

Immigration and the crisis of political trust

Please join us for the Our Changing World Lecture, "Immigration and the crisis of political trust", with Professor Christina Boswell.

Voters in advanced democratic countries are increasingly disillusioned with politics and politicians. This crisis of political trust appeared to reach new heights in 2016, which saw electoral breakthroughs for populist movements in a number of European countries and the US. One of the key features of this rejection of mainstream politics appears to be rising anxiety about immigration. Publics in many countries have lost trust in their governments to control immigration – whether in the form of limiting EU immigration, managing the refugee ‘crisis’, or controlling irregular movement across the Mexican-US border. If we accept this account, it would imply the need for mainstream parties to respond to public concerns about immigration, embracing more rigorous policies on migration control.

But is immigration a cause of the crisis of political trust – or is it being used as a vehicle for channelling other types of social and economic malaise? This lecture will disentangle the complex relationship between attitudes to immigration and public trust in politics. Through history, immigrants and minority groups have served as a ‘lightning rod’ for discontent. Yet hostility to outsiders often reflects deeper socio-economic or cultural anxieties, which are not caused by immigration. It therefore makes a big difference how political and media elites represent these wider anxieties. Politicians and the mass media can adopt different narratives to make sense of and articulate the sources of socio-economic and cultural malaise. I suggest that these elites have considerable scope to shape public attitudes to immigration, and craft a more responsible approach to immigration.

Professor Christina Boswell is the Director of Research in the School of Social & Political Science.


Doors open at 6.15pm.

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Oct 31 2017 18:30 - 20:00

Immigration and the crisis of political trust

Entry is on a first come first served basis. If you are late, we cannot guarantee your place.
This event may be photographed and/or recorded for promotional or recruitment materials for the University and University approved third parties.

George Square Lecture Theatre, The University of Edinburgh, George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9LD