Parasocial Exposure to Successful Immigrants and Attitudes Toward Immigration

55 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2022 Last revised: 25 Oct 2022

See all articles by Asli Unan

Asli Unan

Humboldt University of Berlin

Date Written: September 26, 2022


Can exposure to successful immigrants in the mass media affect perceptions of immigrants and alter attitudes toward immigration? To address this question, I study the case of Ozlem Tureci and Ugur Sahin, the co-developers of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, and children of Turkish immigrants in Germany. I first demonstrate that German media favourably highlighted the Turkish roots and migration history of vaccine developers. Leveraging the quasi-experimental setting with the announcement of the success of the vaccine, I then posit that the wide broadcasting of the vaccine's success and its developers' identity should have positive spillover effects on public attitudes towards immigration. Amongst those who were exposed to this announcement, compared to those who were not, I find a 4 percentage point increase in support of easing immigration opportunities. I suggest that this effect is driven by a change in perceptions of self-awareness on issues relating to immigration and integration. These findings imply that positive media framing and highlighting successful integration can be key to social cohesion in host societies.

Keywords: immigration, attitudes toward immigration, parasocial contact, media framing, unexpected events design

Suggested Citation

Unan, Asli, Parasocial Exposure to Successful Immigrants and Attitudes Toward Immigration (September 26, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Asli Unan (Contact Author)

Humboldt University of Berlin ( email )

Unter den Linden 6
Berlin, 10117

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