Social media and anti-immigrant prejudice: a multi-method analysis of the role of social media use, threat perceptions, and cognitive ability

Saifuddin Ahmed*, Kokil Jaidka, Vivian Hsueh Hua Chen, Mengxuan Cai, Anfan Chen, Claire Stravato Emes, Valerie Yu, Arul Chib

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

INTRODUCTION: 

The discourse on immigration and immigrants is central to contemporary political and public discussions. Analyzing online conversations about immigrants provides valuable insights into public opinion, complemented by data from questionnaires on how attitudes are formed.

METHODS: 

The research includes two studies examining the expressive and informational use of social media. Study 1 conducted a computational text analysis of comments on Singaporean Facebook pages and forums, focusing on how social media is used to discuss immigrants. Study 2 utilized survey data to examine the use of social media at the individual level, testing the relationships between cognitive ability, perceptions of threat, negative emotions towards immigrants, and social media usage within the Integrated Threat Theory framework.

RESULTS: 

Study 1 found that discussions about immigrants on social media often involved negative emotions and concerns about economic impact, such as competition for jobs and crime. Complementing these findings about perceived economic threats, Study 2 showed that individuals with higher social media usage and greater perceptions of threat were more likely to have negative emotions towards immigrants. These relationships were mediated by perceptions of threat and were stronger in individuals with lower cognitive abilities.

DISCUSSION: 

The findings from both studies demonstrate the role of social media in shaping public attitudes towards immigrants, highlighting how perceived threats influence these attitudes. This research suggests the importance of considering how digital platforms contribute to public opinion on immigration, with implications for understanding the dynamics of attitude formation in the digital age.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1280366
Number of pages17
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume15
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2024 Ahmed, Jaidka, Chen, Cai, Chen, Emes, Yu and Chib.

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