Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Immigration has been one of the most dominant and salient political issues during recent presidential election. Unfortunately, the debates surrounding immigration often castigated Latin Americans as threatening, with the intent to spark fear among voters, while increasing the support for anti-immigration policies, such as the border wall and opposition to passage of a law granting citizenship to Dreamers. The purpose of this dissertation was to determine how realistic and symbolic threats influence college students’ attitudes on immigrants and immigration. Very few studies have been conducted on how realistic and symbolic threats influence immigration attitudes and opinions regarding a wide range of policies among a college aged population. Also not addressed in prior studies, this research examined how realistic and symbolic threats influence college students’ attitudes on immigration involving student populations from a historically black college and university and a majority, formally all-white university.
Undergirded by the realistic group competition and the symbolic threat theories, this research is divided into three studies, each with a specific aim. The aim of study 1 was to examine how realistic and symbolic threat measures are associated with college students’ attitudes toward Latin American immigrants. The aim of study 2 was to examine how realistic and symbolic threat measures are associated with college students’ opinions toward immigration enforcement policies impacting Latin American immigrants. Finally, the aim of study 3 was to examine how measures of realistic and symbolic threat are associated with college students’ attitudes toward discriminatory policies impacting Latin American immigrants. Additionally, several hypotheses were tested for each study aim.
The results of these three studies have implications for the political debate surrounding immigration. While it is widely accepted that older people tend to be more opposed to immigration compared to younger people (Pew Research Center, 2018b; Wilkes, Guppy, & Farris, 2008), the findings of these studies suggest that even younger people can be encouraged to oppose immigration under certain circumstances. Hence, realistic and symbolic threat narratives can be effectively used by political candidates to further their campaigns.
Spurlock, Brook Shantel, "The Influence of Perceived Realistic and Symbolic Threat on College Students’ Attitudes toward Immigrants and Immigration" (2022). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 5733.
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