Framing Immigration: Varieties of Arguments, Actors and Opportunity Structures

39 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2012

Date Written: March 27, 2012


Although immigration has become one of the most controversial political issues in Western Europe we know surprisingly little about the motivations that lead political actors to oppose or support it. Investigating the way political actors frame immigration enables us to understand how they perceive these issues, to which causes and consequences they direct our atten-tion and why they take the positions they take. By means of newspaper data and a compre-hensive frame categorization I will analyze framing strategies for a large variety of actors for the period 1999 to 2006 in Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The results will show that immigration changes its meaning depending on which actors are in dispute about it under which circumstances. On the one hand, the actors’ left–right positions, government involvement as well as their resources and, on the other hand, sub-issue specific opportunity structures and external shocks are relevant explanatory factors. Citizenship models however do not shape the way immigration issues are presented. I found instead indications for indirect transnationalism. The results show that conflicts about immigration are embedded in broader political struggles.

Keywords: Framing, political parties, immigration, media analysis, opportunity structures

Suggested Citation

Helbling, Marc, Framing Immigration: Varieties of Arguments, Actors and Opportunity Structures (March 27, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Marc Helbling (Contact Author)

University of Bamberg ( email )

Feldkirchenstrasse 21
Bamberg, 96045

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