The Racial Divide on Immigration Opinion: Why Blacks Are Less Threatened by Immigrants

34 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 4 Sep 2010

See all articles by Ted Brader

Ted Brader

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Nicholas A. Valentino

Independent

Ashley E. Jardina

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Timothy J. Ryan

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill

Date Written: 2010

Abstract

Explanations for racial gaps in national policy opinion are often complicated by overlapping class/material and identity-based forces. If blacks are more favorable to racial or social welfare policies, it is difficult to know whether their material interests or their identification as a member of an oppressed group causes this difference. The domain of immigration policy offers a unique opportunity to contrast class/material interest versus symbolic politics explanations of the racial gap, since blacks material interests regarding the issue should, on average, push them to be more conservative on the issue than whites, and to be much more reactive to threatening news stories about immigrants. Symbolic politics theory would expect, on the other hand, that blacks might identify with oppressed groups, including immigrants, and therefore take less restrictive or punitive positions on the issue and to be less persuaded by threatening news. We employ ANES survey data and an Internet survey experiment with a national sample of whites and an oversample of blacks. We find that blacks are, in fact, consistently more permissive on immigration than whites across a host of different policies. Second, group attitudes, not material interests drive individual differences in both black and white opinions about immigration. Finally, blacks are much more resistant than whites to negatively framed news stories about the impact of immigration. In general, this pattern of findings strongly supports the notion that immigration opinion is driven by symbolic concerns like group identity, and less by class or individual material interests.

Keywords: immigration, public opinion, race, media

Suggested Citation

Brader, Ted and Valentino, Nicholas A. and Jardina, Ashley E. and Ryan, Timothy J., The Racial Divide on Immigration Opinion: Why Blacks Are Less Threatened by Immigrants (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1642984

Ted Brader (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Nicholas A. Valentino

Independent ( email )

Ashley E. Jardina

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Timothy J. Ryan

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill ( email )

102 Ridge Road
Chapel Hill, NC NC 27514
United States

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