E.g., 08/23/2019
E.g., 08/23/2019

In Search of a New Equilibrium: Immigration Policymaking in the Newest Era of Nativist Populism

November 2018

In Search of a New Equilibrium: Immigration Policymaking in the Newest Era of Nativist Populism

Nativist populism is reshaping the political landscape in many liberal democracies. A recent string of electoral gains in Europe and the United States by politicians and parties touting (radical) right populist policies has forced analysts to rethink how they account for populism’s appeal and resilience. From treating it as a protest movement or handful of one-off events, there is increasing recognition that populism has moved from the fringes into the political mainstream in many countries.

This report steps back to assess the web of factors driving support for populism. “The rise of nativist populism,” the authors write, “is inextricably bound up with anxiety about the rate, form, and manner in which immigration has grown in recent years.” In many countries, it is also a reflection of concerns about lost livelihoods and socioeconomic status amid an uneven recovery from the 2008-09 global recession, and perceived threats to social norm and “community,” however defined.

While many commentators focus narrowly on the electoral wins and losses of mainstream politicians and their populist competitors, this report looks more broadly at the diversity of ways populists are influencing immigration policymaking, from both inside and outside government. It also sets out steps policymakers can take to begin to build a new consensus around immigration- and integration-related issues, including by improving current migration-governance systems, communicating more effectively about the tradeoffs of immigration policy, and proactively addressing the adverse effects economic changes have had on some regions and populations.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. What Is Driving Public Anxiety about Immigration?

A. The Pace of Social and Cultural Change

B. Political Fragmentation, Polarization, and the Rise of Anti-Elitism

C. Growing Inequality and Competition for Scarce Public Resources

D. Why Now?

III. Assessing the Influence of Radical-Right Populism

A. Tracking the Influence of Populists: From Disruptors, to Shapers of Policy, to Governors

B. Responding to Populism

IV. Principles for Accepting Difference and Building a New Consensus on Immigration

A. Running a Rules-Based Immigration System

B. Communicating Complexity and Managing Crises Well

C. Redressing Adverse Effects and Inequality

V. Conclusion