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Local leaders possess significant and growing authority over refugee resettlement, yet we know little about their attitudes toward refugees. In this article, we use a conjoint experiment to evaluate how the attributes of hypothetical refugee groups influence local policymaker receptivity toward refugee resettlement. We sample from a novel, national panel of current local elected officials, who represent a broad range of urban and rural communities across the United States. We find that many local officials favor refugee resettlement regardless of refugee attributes. However, officials are most receptive to refugees whom they perceive as a strong economic and social fit within their communities. Our study is the first in a growing literature on individual attitudes toward refugees to systematically examine the preferences of US local elected officials and offers unique insights into the views of this influential and policy-relevant group.


Human rights, humanitarian, refugee resettlement, immigration, local government officials, policymakers, United States, attitudes toward refugees, immigrants, empirical study, determinants of receptivity, experimental design, language skills, education, sponsorship status, economic contributions

Publication Citation

117(50) Proc. Nat’l Acad. Sci. 31722 (December 15, 2020).