Politicians are influential both in directing policies about refugees and in framing public discourse about them. However, unlike other host country residents, politicians’ attitudes towards refugees and integration are remarkably understudied. We therefore examine similarities and differences between politicians’ attitudes towards refugee integration and those held by citizens. Based on the stereotype content model, we expect that political ideology informs stereotypes about refugees, which subsequently shape attitudes towards refugee integration. Based on the Contact Hypothesis, we further argue that personal contact with refugees reduces negative stereotypes about them—in particular for those endorsing a right-wing ideology. We draw on data collected via two surveys with 905 politicians and 8013 citizens in the Netherlands to show that (1) unlike those with a left-wing orientation, residents (i.e., both politicians and citizens) with a right-wing orientation hold more negative stereotypes about refugees, which in turn relate to more negative attitudes towards refugee integration; (2) personal contact with refugees is associated with less negative stereotypes among residents; and (3) politicians, compared to citizens, report less negative stereotypes and more positive attitudes towards refugee integration. The practical implication of fostering residents’ contact with refugees as well as the implications for future research are discussed.
Published as: Knappert, L., Van Dijk, H., Yuan, S., Engel, Y., van Prooijen, J. W., & Krouwel, A. (2020). Personal contact with refugees is key to welcoming them: An analysis of politicians' and citizens' attitudes towards refugee integration. Political Psychology.