Mass Media Influences on Anti-Immigrant Attitudes


Theoretical background and objectives

The project investigates linkages between the political mobilisation of immigration issues and anti-immigrant sentiments among native populations by simultaneously examining the impact of immigrant group size, negative immigration-related news reports and their interaction on perceived group threat. Starting from a group threat perspective, the guiding hypothesis of the study is that an increase (decrease) in the frequency of negative mass media coverage of diversity-related issues will result in an increase (decrease) in individual anti-immigrant attitudes. In addition, we investigate whether media effects interact with immigrant group size, following the hypothesis that media framing has stronger effects where people have less direct experience with immigrants. While claims regarding such media effects are frequently made, they are rarely investigated because they require a combination of survey and media content data. In this project, such data are brought together for two countries, Spain and Germany.

Research design, data and methodology

The analysis for Spain uses cross-sectional survey data for the period 1996 to 2007, enriched with regional statistics on immigrant group size. These are linked to data drawn from a longitudinal content analysis of newspaper reports and analysed using multilevel linear regression. The German study will improve further upon existing work by a) capturing a wider range of news sources (including newspaper and television reports), b) more precisely assessing the valence of immigration-related mass media coverage (in terms of positive, neutral and negative evaluations of immigration related issues) and c) relating these measures to the dynamic formation of anti-immigrant attitudes using growth curve models over four measurement points (2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006). This research will rank among the first studies which – from a multilevel point of view – deliver quasi-experimental evidence that the mass media are an important factor in shaping anti-immigrant attitudes and policy preferences.


The Spanish study has already been completed; the German one will follow in 2011. Findings for Spain show that a greater salience of negative immigration-related news reports increases perceived group threat over and above the influence of immigrant group size. Additionally, the impact of negative immigration-related news reports on perceived group threat is amplified (weakened) in regions with a smaller (larger) immigrant group size. Collectively, these results testify to the importance of immigrant group size and negative immigration-related news reports as key contextual sources of perceived group threat among host society members.

Main content

Ausgewählte Publikationen

Schlüter, Elmar/Davidov, Eldad (2010): Contextual sources of perceived group threat: Immigrant group size, negative immigration-related news reports and their interaction, Spain 1996-2007. WZB Discussion Paper SP IV 2010-704 (article version under review)