Matthew Wright

Associate Professor

Research Classification

Research Interests

American politics
Comparitive politics
Immigration Policy
National identity
Political behaviour
Political psychology
public opinion

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Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters


Graduate Student Supervision

Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Civic integration policy? The impact of European civic integration programs on immigrant well-being, perceptions of belonging, and value adoption (2022)

Civic integration policies have emerged across a variety of Western European states as a strategy to improve the integration outcomes of non-European immigrants through obligatory programs of language instruction, employment counselling, and civic education. While these programs may facilitate integration through the promotion of ‘citizen-like’ skills, such as language and country knowledge, scholars caution that civic integration policies may also have exclusionary effects and separate some immigrants from membership in the national community by restricting their entry into the country and evoking the notion that certain immigrants are fundamentally different from natives. This study examines how the paradoxical entanglement of inclusion and exclusion in civic integration policy affects the subjective integration perceptions of participating immigrants. Using a difference-in-difference approach and data from eight rounds of the European Social Survey (2002-2017), it investigates how civic integration requirements impact the life satisfaction, perceptions of belonging, and value adoption of third-country nationals across fifteen countries in Western Europe. I find that programs of language instruction, employment counselling, and civic education increase immigrant well-being but do not exert any effect on immigrants’ sense of belonging or attitudes. The results of this study suggest that civic integration programs overall benefit immigrants and facilitate their settlement in the host country. Notions of exclusion within the programs do not appear to play a significant role in predicting feelings of belonging among participating immigrants.

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How do citizens develop perceptions of job competition from immigrants? economic interests and immigration attitudes in Canada (2022)

The incumbent Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) has set ambitious targets for the number of immigrants to be granted permanent residency annually. At the same time, there are no other major Canadian political parties with anti-immigration platforms. Despite this elite consensus on the necessity of economic immigration, the opinions of ordinary Canadian citizens toward immigrants, and in particular, whether Canadians view immigrants as potential competitors for jobs, have not been fully understood. Drawing upon a representative web-based survey in Canada conducted by Professors Matthew Wright from the University of British Columbia and Morris Levy from the University of Southern California in March 2022, this thesis addresses this problem: How do economic interests influence the immigration attitudes of ordinary Canadian citizens? The results suggest that respondents’ perceived economic context shapes their sociotropic job threat from immigration, but not their personal job threat from immigration. In addition, both personal and sociotropic job threat from immigration are influenced by political partisanship, with a stark difference between Liberal and Conservative supporters. Finally, my findings demonstrate that both personal and sociotropic job threat from immigration are associated with Canadians’ preferred level of immigration to Canada. Overall, this thesis validates the role of economic interests in the formation of immigration opinions, and reveals how these economic interests change based on information received by citizens. Economic self-interest, which scholars criticize as irrelevant to immigration attitudes, remains important in shaping public opinion on immigration.

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The causes and consequences of candidate immigration rhetoric in US congressional elections, 2012-2018 (2022)

Since the 1990s, the issue of immigration in US politics has undergone a notable politicaltransition. Though cross-partisan through much of the twentieth century, immigration is now oneof the most salient and divisive issues in US politics. Due to immigration’s salience, issueownership theory offers insights into how candidates might interact with immigration,particularly that candidates would focus on issues that their party owns rather than compete oncommon issues to gain votes. Using immigration campaign ad data from US congressionalgeneral election campaigns from 2012 to 2018, this paper challenges issue ownership theory andinstead supports an alternative ‘policy preference theory’ that centers voters’ policy preferences.Ad data shows a substantial increase in campaign immigration rhetoric among both parties,though Republicans are more likely to use immigration rhetoric than Democrats. Candidates ingeneral are more likely to use immigration rhetoric when the district Latino population favorstheir party. Breaking from leadership’s rhetorical embrace of expansionary policies, Democrat aswell as Republican candidates more often used anti-immigration than either ambiguous- or pro-immigration rhetoric, though Republican candidates did so more heavily. Rather than hurtcandidates, preliminary evidence suggests that trespassing the party’s immigration stance canincrease election margins in unfavorable districts. Regression analyses also reveal that Latinopopulation size influences candidate immigration stance in predictable ways. This study providesinsights into the political influence of Latino populations, the effects of campaign advertising,and the electoral incentives that influence candidate immigration rhetoric.

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From root to branch: a feedback examination of the path of American narcotic policy in the 20th century (2021)

The question that this thesis aims to answer is: to what extent has early institutional policy framing of narcotic abuse shaped the approach to narcotic policy at the federal level during the twentieth century? Policy feedback explains how policy framing of narcotic abuse as a criminal phenomenon directed the public to behave in a way that aligns with this framing, which extended to political behaviour and reinforced the criminal framing of narcotic abuse through electoral politics and a locked-in approach to narcotic policy that emphasizes punishment. This paper uses process tracing to illustrate this feedback from 1930 to 1999. This thesis finds preliminary evidence of policy feedback in the area of narcotic policy, which is in line with findings in other areas of American health policy and connects to the general literature of state development and policy feedback.

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