Framing Immigration in Western Europe

Author(s) : Marc Helbling

Source :


While immigration has become one of the most controversial political issues in Western Europe, we know surprisingly little about what motivates political actors to oppose or support it. Investigating the ways political actors frame immigration enables us to understand how they perceive the issues involved, why they centre their debate on certain causes and consequences and why they take the positions they take. Using newspaper data and a comprehensive frame categorisation, I analyse the framing strategies employed by political parties during the period from 1999 to 2006, in Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK. The results show that the framing of immigration depends on the actors involved, and upon the circumstances governing the dispute. On the one hand, the actors’ left–right positions and government involvement serve as relevant explanatory factors. And on the other hand, sub-issue specific opportunity structures prove important. Citizenship models, however, do not appear to meaningfully shape the way immigration issues are presented. Instead, my research found indications suggesting the influence of indirect transnationalism.

Keywords: ImmigrationFramingWestern EuropePolitical Parties