National Identity and Immigration Attitudes

There are two competing hypotheses about the impact of national identity on attitudes towards immigration. The first, based on research in Europe and in the U.S., is that national identities act as exclusionary forces: they reinforce group boundaries and make people more opposed to immigration. This means, for instance, that making salient the national identity of individuals will increase their opposition to immigration. The second hypothesis is that a national identity can have an inclusive effect on attitudes toward newcomers if immigration becomes one of its founding elements.

Using Canada as a case, I stack these two competing hypotheses against each other and test the possibility that some national identities might represent an inclusive force. The second part of this research will also include data from the US and from Québec.

Part of this research was funded by the Environics Institute.


Breton, Charles. 2015. “Making National Identity Salient: Impact on Attitudes toward Immigration and Multiculturalism” Canadian Journal of Political Science 48 (2): 357-381.

Social Desirability Bias

When people are asked about their opinion on sensitive issues, prejudice for instance, they are more likely to provide answers that conform with social expectations and hide their true feelings. In survey research, this is called social desirability bias and public opinion scholars have used different tools to try to circumvent it. But what if this bias was actually measuring something of interest?

The argument that I develop with my colleague Gregory Eady is that we can gain some insight by studying social desirability bias - or more crudely, lying - as the outcome of interest. Why do people lie about prejudice toward some groups more than others? How does lying vary with context? In the process, we put forward a new understanding of social desirability bias as well as new tools to study it.

Working Papers

“Misrepresenting the Truth about Minorities” with Gregory Eady, Yannick Dufresne, Clifton Van Der Linden, and Jennifer Hove.

“Lying and the Contact Hypothesis: Social Desirability Bias, Attitudes toward Minorities and Proximity” with Gregory Eady.

Disentangling Principled and Prejudiced Issue Positions

Wheareas many issues often stack principled positions against one another, other issues - for instance, affirmative action - touch on subjects that make it possible to support or oppose a given option for both principled and prejudiced reasons. When trying to establish support for a policy of this type, it is paramout to assess whether this support is based on arguments that have a place in public discourse or if, on the contrary, it stems from unprincipled reasons rooted in prejudice.

Gregory Eady and I use a recent proposition in Québec to ban religious symbols from the public service to put forward a design and method to disentangle the proportion of the population that supports or opposes the ban for principled and prejudiced reasons.

Working Papers

“Is Support for Banning Religious Symbols in the Public Sphere Prejudiced?” with Gregory Eady.

Incorporation Policies and Attitudes

Incorporation policies have been largely understudied in the extensive quantitative literature on attitude formation. One reason for this gap in the literature, aside from endogeneity concerns, is that comparative studies of immigration policies have historically been interested in policies as the outcome needing explanation. Yet, these policies establish the larger context in which majority members and newcomers interact with each other. I argue that it is essential to take these policies into account when looking at intergroup attitudes in immigration countries.

Working Papers

“Do Incorporation Policies Matter? Immigrants’ Identification and their Attitudes toward Relationships with the Majority”.

“Incorporation Policies, Cultural Threat, and Host Societies’ Attitudes toward Immigration”.

Conservatism in Canada

In a previous academic endeavor I studied Moral Conservatism in Canada – or in more easily understandable but less exact terms, the Canadian religious right.

My M.A. thesis can be accessed here (in French).

This research won the Best Poster Prize at the 2009 Canadian Political Science Association Annual Meeting.