CEPII, Recherche et Expertise sur l'economie mondiale
Media Coverage of Immigration and the Polarization of Attitudes

Sarah Schneider-Strawczynski
Jérôme Valette

 Highlights :
  • Increased news coverage of immigration polarizes attitudes. Individuals with initially moderate attitudes become more likely to report extremely positive and negative attitudes.
  • This asymmetric change results from initial belief heterogeneity; those with initially moderately positive attitudes become extremely positive, while those with initially moderately negative attitudes become more concerned about immigration.
  • Increased immigration coverage raises the prominence of this subject in the minds of TV viewers, causing them to place greater emphasis on the immigration topic when forming their opinion, thereby amplifying their initial position on the distribution of attitudes from moderate to extreme.

 Abstract :
This paper investigates the effect of media coverage on immigration attitudes. It combines data on immigration coverage in French television with individual panel data from 2013 to 2017 that records respondents’ preferred television channel and attitudes toward immigration. The analysis focuses on within-individual variations over time, addressing ideological self-selection into channels. We find that increased coverage of immigration polarizes attitudes, with initially moderate individuals becoming more likely to report extremely positive and negative attitudes. This polarization is mainly driven by an increase in the salience of immigration, which reactivates preexisting prejudices, rather than persuasion effects from biased news consumption.

 Keywords : Immigration | Media | Polarization | Salience

 JEL : D8, F22, L82
CEPII Working Paper
N°2024-01, January 2024

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