‘Welcoming’ Guests: The Role of Ideational and Contextual Factors in Public Perceptions About Refugees and Attitudes about Their Integration - H. Ege ÖZEN, Ayşenur DAL, and Efe TOKDEMİR


H. Ege ÖZEN*, Ayşenur DAL**, and Efe TOKDEMİR***

In this study, we aim to explore the ideational and contextual sources of perceptions about refugees. Contrary to many studies focusing on the interaction with and integration of refugees in developed countries, we examine the effect of social identity and refugee exposure on the perception of refugees in Turkey, which pose a substantive case with a background of ethnic conflict and scarce resources. We contend that social identities provide individuals with cues; however, we argue that identity type and its salience are key to understanding in-group vs. out-group formation processes, hence the perceptions about refugees. Moreover, we argue that socioeconomic status affects an individual’s support for refugee integration, as it challenges the existing status quo of access to scarce resources. Our findings challenge the conventional wisdom in migration studies by employing an original face-to-face survey among over 1,100 respondents in three cities (Istanbul, Diyarbakir, and Gaziantep) in Turkey. We find that those prioritizing national vs. religious identities reveal different levels of perceived threat. Additionally, we show that those belonging to lower-income socioeconomic groups are less supportive of refugee integration when the presence of refugees sets the ground for competition for economic and social resources where they reside.
Keywords:  refugees, perceived threat, identity, socioeconomic change, Turkey

* Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science and Global Affairs, College of Staten Island, CUNY, New York
** Assistant Professor, Department of Communication and Design, Bilkent University, Ankara
*** Assistant Professor, Department of International Relations, Bilkent University, Ankara