Migration Policy Preferences and Forms of Trust in Contexts of Limited State Capacity


William L Allen (University of Oxford)
Matthew D Bird (Universidad del Pacífico)
Feline Freier (Universidad del Pacífico)
Isabel Ruiz (University of Oxford)
Carlos Vargas-Silva (University of Oxford)

Abstract: Why do citizens hold different migration policy preferences? US and European evidence suggests political trust matters by raising support for more open policies, attenuating concerns about costs, and strengthening beliefs in governments’ implementation abilities. However, this may not hold in countries with limited state capacity. Instead, we argue interpersonal trust placed in policy beneficiaries matters more as citizens circumvent weaker institutions. We test this using conjoint experiments in Colombia and Peru—low-capacity countries experiencing large inflows of forcibly-displaced Venezuelans—that vary aspects of migration policies. Political trust selectively moderates preferences on migrants’ employment rights and numerical limits, contributing novel evidence of boundary conditions for this form of trust. By contrast, greater interpersonal trust is linked to more open preferences across all tested domains. Our results cast doubt on the importance of political trust for migration preferences in contexts of limited state capacity, instead highlighting its partial substitution by interpersonal trust.