WHITE BACKLASH by Marisa Abrajano


Immigration, Race, and American Politics
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Two University of California, San Diego, political science professors set out to conclusively establish the obvious.

Supported by dense statistical analysis, Abrajano (co-author: Campaigning to the New American Electorate: Advertising to Latino Voters, 2010, etc.) and Hajnal (America's Uneven Democracy: Race, Turnout, and Representation in City Politics, 2009, etc.) contend that immigration is transforming United States politics by arousing in many white voters "a broad backlash that results in more restrictive immigration policy, more punitive criminal justice policies, less generous public spending, and a large shift to the right politically that results in more support for the Republican Party." But not all immigrants inspire this—"only one racial group—Latinos—is at the heart of white Americans' [negative] response to immigration." The authors further contend that this response is significantly driven by "an ongoing and often-repeated threat narrative that links the United States' immigrant and Latino populations to a host of pernicious fiscal, social, and cultural consequences," pushed by profit-seeking media. The force of the authors' argument is damaged by a consistent failure to differentiate among attitudes toward the entire Latino population, documented Latino immigrants and undocumented immigration by anyone, resulting in frequent references to "anti-immigrant" policies and documents that target illegal immigration but, in some cases, actually support immigration generally. This muddling of critical concepts is endlessly confusing and sits uncomfortably beside the authors' statistical charts. Also unconvincing is Abrajano and Hajnal’s claim to have teased out attitudes toward Latino immigration from all the other reasons advanced by pundits for white voters leaving the Democratic Party.

The authors ponderously demonstrate that white voters who oppose unrestricted Latino immigration increasingly support the party that shares their concern and resists paying for social services for undocumented immigrants. Not worth the effort.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-691-16443-4
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Princeton Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2015


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