The Muted Consequences of Correct Information About Immigration
12 Pages Posted: 23 Jun 2016 Last revised: 4 May 2018
Date Written: March 26, 2018
Previous research shows that people commonly exaggerate the size of minority populations. Theories of inter-group threat predict that the larger people perceive minority groups to be, the less favorably they feel toward them. We investigate whether correcting Americans' misperceptions about one such population --- immigrants --- affects related attitudes. We confirm that non-Hispanic Americans over-estimate the percentage of the population that is foreign-born or in the U.S. without authorization. However, in seven separate survey experiments over 11 years, we find that providing accurate information does little to affect attitudes toward immigration, even though it does reduce the perceived size of the foreign-born population. This is true even when people's misperceptions are explicitly corrected. These results call into question a potential cognitive mechanism that could underpin inter-group threat theory. Misperceptions of the size of minority groups may be a consequence, rather than cause, of attitudes toward those groups.
Keywords: Public opinion; immigration; survey experiments; information; innumeracy
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