Thursday, March 04, 2010

Democracy and Immigrants in Ecuador

Diana M. Orcés, "Democratic Values and Public Opinion Toward Immigrants: The Case of Ecuador."  Latin American Politics & Society 51, 4 (Winter 2009): 131-155.

Abstract (gated):

Scholars of support for democracy traditionally have been concerned with its causes, with the assumption that higher citizen support for democratic values will enhance democracy's chances of survival in a country. Beyond this fundamental proposition, however, the consequences of varying levels of support for democratic values remain largely unexplored. This article examines the relationship between support for democratic values and views toward immigration in Latin America, a region that is experiencing an unprecedented increase in the movement of people across borders. Through an analysis of Ecuadorian attitudes toward Colombian immigrants, this study finds strong evidence for the argument that support for democratic values has potential benefits not only for democratic sustainability in the region, but also for the reduction of social conflict and distrust that can stem from increasing immigration in a volatile economic context.

Very interesting article using LAPOP public opinion data. The general idea is that values associated with democracy (particularly tolerance) go along with tolerance of immigrants.  More authoritarian values decrease that tolerance.  She correctly notes:

As immigration has become an important part of host societies in developed countries and lately in the developing world (e.g., Peruvians in Chile), it is crucial to understand the dynamics of how preexisting attitudes toward democracy might help prepare citizens to react to a dramatic increase in immigration in a more tolerant and democratic manner (147).

One question I have, though, is whether attitudes vary according to the type of immigrant.  Mexicans in the U.S. or Peruvians in Chile are seeking jobs, whereas Colombians in Ecuador are predominantly refugees (or we could even look at Salvadorans coming to the U.S. in the 1980s).  Is there a reservoir of goodwill for such migrants?  Or do levels of political tolerance not differentiate  between the two?


Tambopaxi 11:52 AM  

I don't have a sense that Ecuadorians differentiate between Colombians who come for economic reasons and those who come as political refugees (and we do have the two different groups here; there are Colombians who have been in Ecuador since the 1960's, and who are well established businessmen).

I do have the sense that Ecuadorians are becoming less tolerant of Colombians simply because there are more of them, and because they're seen as competing for jobs and as a significant factor in the growing crime rate in country. I should say that I think it's reasonable to think that Colombians would compete for jobs; I haven't seen any research that shows that the presence of Colombians leads to increased delinquency.

I've read the Vanderbilt studies and the questions about authoritarian attitudes and tolerance. The figures seems to show some correlation, but frankly, I'm not sure why that correlation exists. As I say, my sense is that Ecuadorians are becoming less tolerant of Colombian presence here, but does that mean that Ecuadorians are becoming more authoritarian? I don't see that myself, that is, I don't perceive Ecuadorians and Ecuadorian society becoming palpably more authoritarian. I think it's because they're just seeing the numbers of Colombians grow and they're getting tired of it.

Btw, Mitch S. and his colleagues have never treated what I consider to be the more interesting immigration question of Peruvians entering Ecuador in growing numbers to work in the southern Provinces. In raw numbers, the Peruvian wave is much, much smaller than the Colombian advent, but in percentage increases, it's much larger (off of a smaller base, of course). The Peruvians are being welcomed in large part, because ironically, they're filling a labor vacuum created down south by the large scale emigration of Ecuadorians to Europe and the U.S. looking for better paying jobs...

Finally, before I forget it, Colombian immigrants are beginning to cause resentment and social stresses in Panama and Costa Rica, but I don't know if anyone's taken a look at exactly what's happening...

Greg Weeks 1:44 PM  

If Ecuadorians are becoming less tolerant, and if the hypothesis holds, then it means that those particularly Ecuadorians who are changing their minds likely do not hold strong democratic values. It doesn't mean people are becoming more authoritarian.

As for the other questions, they sound interesting--migration within Latin America is understudied in general.

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