In line with previous research, we argue that belonging is a core dimension of immigrant integration, and that belonging is better conceptualized and measured by distinguishing between immigrants’ feeling of being attached and feeling of being accepted. Feeling attached captures immigrants’ desire to belong, whereas feeling accepted captures the perception that the community wants them to belong. This study tests this argument using a sample of first- and second-generation immigrants in Canada.
The findings indicate a direct correlation between immigrants’ feelings of being attached and accepted and their political integration. Immigrants who feel attached and those who feel accepted are more interested in politics, more likely to vote (and more likely to feel guilty when they don’t), more likely to express confidence in Canadian political institutions, and more likely to express the view that they would rather live in Canada than in any other country in the world. Moreover, the study demonstrates that those who neither feel attached nor accepted lag the most behind the rest of the population in their political integration, and that only when both conditions are met (that is, when immigrants feel attached and accepted) do they start engaging in political affairs as much as the rest of the Canadian population. Our findings, we argue, suggest that the dynamics of belonging are best understood when belonging is considered as a two-way process in which both immigrants and the host community express gestures of commitment.