• Patrick English

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis investigates the impact of public opinion toward immigration on the descriptive representation of immigrant origin groups in Britain and in six other European countries. It forms part of the wider Pathways project, which studies the representation of immigrant communities across Europe. This research begins by studying the connection between public opinion and representation at the country level in Europe before then proceeding with an in-depth case study analysis of Great Britain. It uses the theoretical framework of political opportunity to nest changing public opinion alongside a range of institutional, legal, and other social factors which temper opportunity for the political representation of non-native groups. Furthermore, the thesis engages with criticisms of the descriptive representation literature and provides some solutions to improve metrics of descriptive representation. It was hypothesised that as public opinion toward immigration became more hostile, so the descriptive representation of immigrant origin groups would be adversely affected. Furthermore, it was expected that visible immigrant origin groups (those who are identifiably from non-native backgrounds) would be impacted to a much greater extent than those who share a great deal of commonality (in terms of race, appearance, and names) to the white majority groups across Europe. The results were mixed. Firstly, the thesis found that rising anti-immigrant hostility at the national level appeared to relate to higher levels of descriptive representation for visible immigrant origin groups, and had little impact on the representation of other immigrant origin communities. Secondly however, analysis of the Great British case at the regional level revealed how increasingly negative public opinion did in fact relate to decreasing descriptive representation for non-white (ethnic minority) immigrant origin groups (though it did not seem to impact their representation in roles of responsibility and influence in parliament). This supported the central hypothesis of the thesis. In short, the evidence in this thesis suggests that in country contexts of higher anti-immigrant public opinion, visible immigrant origin groups are engaged in countermobilisation to defend their interests and claims. However, regional variation in public opinion toward immigration dictates how and where visible non-native groups are able to improve their representation in parliament.
Date of Award31 Dec 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRobert Ford (Supervisor) & Maria Sobolewska (Supervisor)


  • elections
  • dyadic ratios
  • ethnicity
  • public opinion
  • representation
  • race

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