Attitudes on Immigrants : Stories vs. Statistics
Bleske-Rechek, April L.
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The topic of immigration is a politically polarizing issue despite the U.S.A.’s characterization as a post-racial nation-state. In the current research, we tested the hypothesis that people’s attitudes about immigration are influenced more by exposure to vivid, emotional stories about an immigrant than by exposure to non-partisan statistics about immigrants. Participants were 369 undergraduate students enrolled at a public, Midwestern university in the U.S.A. In the study, some participants were exposed to a positive story about an undocumented immigrant, some to a negative story, and some to no story at all. In addition, half of the participants in each story condition were exposed to national statistics about immigration through a “Did you know?” quiz, while the other half in each story condition were not exposed to the statistics. Then, all participants reported their attitudes toward immigrants. Data analysis revealed that attitudes towards immigrants were moderate-to-positive regardless of condition, and exposure to the non-partisan statistics had a small, positive effect on attitudes. The current findings suggest that statistics can sway attitudes; however, we question whether the findings will replicate in a sample drawn from a more politically and educationally diverse population.