Framing the “Others”: Examining positive and negative framing effects on attitudes toward immigration in neutral news media and partisan sources Open Access

Liu, Muzhi (Spring 2023)

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Framing has been increasingly used by political elites as a tactic to influence public opinions toward immigration. Motivated by the widespread use of framing, my paper intends to study the impacts of framing on public attitudes toward immigrants, public attitudes toward immigration policies, and public willingness to participate in political actions for or against immigration. Using a survey experiment, I compare the impact of economic threat frames versus cultural threat frames, positive frames versus negative frames, and frames from a neutral source versus frames from a partisan-leaning source. My research aims to reconcile the two main domains of literature in the field of political communication – racial priming and general framing, as this research examines if the findings on the factors that determine the relative effectiveness of framing – tone, source, and moderators – can be applied to the context of immigration priming with a racial overtone.

This research finds: (1) Overall, negative frames are more effective than positive frames. Cultural frames do not demonstrate a consistent difference in effects than economic frames. While the neutral frames that come from the Associated Press steadily showcase a larger impact than the Republican frames, the neutral AP frames do not show a consistent difference in impacts than Democratic frames. (2) Liberals display a decline in their level of favorableness toward immigration in response to an exposure to any type of frames, either positive or negative, neutral or partisan. Conservatives are more persuade by negative frames and less persuaded by positive frames. Moderates generally display framing effects in alignment with the tone – either positive or negative - of the frames.

Table of Contents

Table of Content

Introduction 1

Literature Review 3

Portrayal of immigrants since 1870 3

Long-term factors that shape immigration attitudes 6

Long-term memory activated by situational triggers - framing 9

Racial priming in general and in the immigration context 10

Effects of negative versus positive framing 13

Relative effectiveness of different types of framing 15

Understudied areas in racial priming and potential contribution of this thesis 17

Theory and Hypotheses 19

Two pillars of my theory – racial priming and general framing theory 20

Negative framing vs. positive framing 21

Economic framing vs. cultural framing 22

Neutral framing vs. partisan framing 24

Political ideology’s mediating effects on framing 25

Research design 28

Statistical analysis 34

Descriptive statistics 34

Framing effects overall 38

Framing effects with people’s political ideology controlled 51

Discussion 58

Conclusion 63


Appendix A: Survey Questionnaire 69

Appendix B: Tables and Figures 70

Reference 73

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