Public Opinion Backlash to Liberal Policy: The Case of Muslim Political Rights in the UK

45 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2017

See all articles by Richard Traunmüller

Richard Traunmüller

Goethe University Frankfurt

Marc Helbling

University of Bamberg

Date Written: January 26, 2017


This study argues that democratic states face a dilemma in the regulation of Muslim integration because they have to take into account citizens' reactions. Focusing on one particular aspect of Muslim integration - how authorities deal with this group's political right to demonstrate - we provide evidence from a survey experiment and show that citizens react negatively to liberal policy approaches. We further show that disagreement with elite decision is a source of citizens' resentment toward Muslim immigrants and leads to a polarization among the public. This notion of opinion backlash to liberal policy adds a new perspective to the literature on immigration attitudes which has either assumed a congruence between public opinion and policy regimes or ignored political sources of anti-immigrant sentiment altogether. By exploring the unintended consequences of liberal policy we provide an alternative view and demonstrate the inherent democratic dilemma of balancing citizen opinion and minority rights.

Keywords: Opinion Backlash; Immigration Attitudes; Muslim Immigration; Policy Effects; Survey Experiment

Suggested Citation

Traunmüller, Richard and Helbling, Marc, Public Opinion Backlash to Liberal Policy: The Case of Muslim Political Rights in the UK (January 26, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Richard Traunmüller (Contact Author)

Goethe University Frankfurt ( email )

Grüneburgplatz 1
Frankfurt am Main, 60323

Marc Helbling

University of Bamberg ( email )

Feldkirchenstrasse 21
Bamberg, 96045

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