Project 4

Changes over time in resistance to refugees in the Netherlands: dealing with diversity


To understand changes in resistance to refugees over time and evaluating the role of knowledge on refugees


The sharp increase in refugees in 2016 led to polarized reactions of resistance to versus support for refugees throughout Europe. This project aims to get a better understanding of how people deal with increasing diversity with a focus on the changes in these reactions over time. Building on theoretical insights from Ethnic Competition Theory versus Intergroup Contact Theory, the project first tests and explains over-time geographical variation in violence to refugees and Asylum Seeker Centres (ASCs). It then takes the step towards understanding changing attitudes towards refugees.

Although previous research has provided much insights in explanations of resistance to migrants and refugees, there is still a gap in our knowledge: whether accurate information on these refugees rather than actual contact influences these resistant citizens. From Contact Theory, the central hypothesis to be tested is that when people establish contacts with refugees, they will become less resistant, dependent on the evaluation of the contact though. Since previous research has shown that people with resistance to migrants are also the least likely to establish contacts with migrants, an innovative hypothesis to be tested is that exposure to information about refugees contributes to reduce resistance towards refugees. Providing crucial information on the justified and legal presence of refugees in local contexts may create overarching goals. Awareness of such shared key goals and values may affect people’s responses to refugees and hence a way to deal with diversity.

Research design

The PhD will collect data on the local level on the extent to which protests against refugees and ASCs have taken place. Moreover, LISS panel data (2008-2018) will be employed to understand changes over time in the resistance to refugees. The PhD will develop an app-based study to test in an experimental design to what extent provision of information short videos is likely to promote tolerance and reduce resistance. To the extent that such information provision is effective, it is likely to contribute to deal effectively with increasing diversity in our society.

  • Lubbers, M., Coenders, M. & Scheepers, P. (2006). Objections to asylum seeker centres: Individual and contextual determinants of resistance to small and large centres in the Netherlands. European Sociological Review, 22(3), 243-257.
  • Savelkoul, M., Scheepers, P., Tolsma, J., & Hagendoorn, L. (2010). Anti-Muslim attitudes in the Netherlands: Tests of contradictory hypotheses derived from ethnic competition theory and intergroup contact theory. European Sociological Review27(6), 741-758.
Project initiators

Marcel Lubbers (RU), Peer Scheepers (RU)