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Fear and Learning in the Illegal Immigration Debate
Unformatted Document Text:  Our results suggest that anxiety about the effects of immigration induced by the fear ad can reduce support for access to government programs and services. On the whole respondents distinguish between programs that benefit the offspring of illegal immigrants and care in emergency situations, in contrast with sustained programs that benefit illegal immigrants themselves. They are on average less supportive of the latter, yet the evocative message in the fear ad successfully decreased support for even the “humanitarian” services among white Republicans. In addition, our results suggest that anxiety about the fate of immigrants themselves and concern about exploitation of immigrants in the workforce can increase support for entitlement and humanitarian services alike and decrease support for border security spending. Yet this section reveals that the exploitation message is more likely to resonate with Latinos than whites or blacks, who hold relatively pro-immigrant attitudes. If immigrant rights coalitions want to increase support for more liberal immigration policies, finding an anxiety-laden message that resonates with whites and blacks may be a first step. Implications Our analysis demonstrates several useful findings for the study of anxiety and information processing and for the study of racial differences in immigration attitudes. Through purposefully oversampling African Americans and Latinos, and by having subjects participate in the study in their own homes, the study was designed to examine a racial diverse non-student sample in a more “real world” environment than the traditional lab experiment. Also, we rely on a behavioral measure of information-seeking which gets around well known biases involved with self reports. The study could still create demand effects since subjects are clearly aware that we are studying immigration attitudes, but we took several steps to mitigate the possibility. First, we created a control condition that raised the issue of immigration in as non-threatening a way as 31

Authors: Gadarian, Shana. and Albertson, Bethany.
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Our results suggest that anxiety about the effects of immigration induced by the fear ad
can reduce support for access to government programs and services. On the whole respondents
distinguish between programs that benefit the offspring of illegal immigrants and care in
emergency situations, in contrast with sustained programs that benefit illegal immigrants
themselves. They are on average less supportive of the latter, yet the evocative message in the
fear ad successfully decreased support for even the “humanitarian” services among white
Republicans. In addition, our results suggest that anxiety about the fate of immigrants themselves
and concern about exploitation of immigrants in the workforce can increase support for
entitlement and humanitarian services alike and decrease support for border security spending.
Yet this section reveals that the exploitation message is more likely to resonate with Latinos than
whites or blacks, who hold relatively pro-immigrant attitudes. If immigrant rights coalitions want
to increase support for more liberal immigration policies, finding an anxiety-laden message that
resonates with whites and blacks may be a first step.
Implications
Our analysis demonstrates several useful findings for the study of anxiety and
information processing and for the study of racial differences in immigration attitudes. Through
purposefully oversampling African Americans and Latinos, and by having subjects participate in
the study in their own homes, the study was designed to examine a racial diverse non-student
sample in a more “real world” environment than the traditional lab experiment. Also, we rely on
a behavioral measure of information-seeking which gets around well known biases involved with
self reports. The study could still create demand effects since subjects are clearly aware that we
are studying immigration attitudes, but we took several steps to mitigate the possibility. First, we
created a control condition that raised the issue of immigration in as non-threatening a way as
31


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