Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Threatened American Identity and Hostile Immigration Attitudes in the United States
by Shortle, Allyson F., Ph.D., The Ohio State University, 2012, 190; 10631263
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation asks why Americans tend to express hostile immigration policy attitudes. Specifically, I ask why citizens are willing to voice hostility toward policies that implicate illegal immigrants, while they are unwilling to voice hostile attitudes toward policies that implicate legal immigrants. Current explanations offer some insights into these puzzling patterns of hostility, with some citing symbolic factors and others arguing that material factors are at the center of public opinion about immigration. However, research thus far has failed to demonstrate a consistent effect arising from any one factor, especially in offering an explanation for the disproportionate amount of hostility that exists within attitudes toward policies meant to punish and restrict illegal immigrants. I argue that current research lacks a focus upon the relevant factors that can explain the vast amount of hostility within the current policies of today, which implicate illegal immigrants. I contend that hostile immigration policy attitudes are caused primarily by threats to American identity. Individuals feel that immigrants devalue American identity when immigrants receive favorable treatment without demonstrating that they place positive value on and are attached to American identity. The disproportionate amount of hostility toward illegal immigrants is explained by the fact that citizens react negatively to immigrants they perceive do not demonstrate attachment, by residing in the country illegally.

I test this theory drawing on two original, national surveys (N=400 & N=1273). The surveys first provide a wide array of questions about personal attachment to the nation. These questions confirm that individuals are highly attached to the nation, and hold the necessary personal attachment to the nation to make threats to American identity possible. The surveys next provide numerous questions about perceived immigrant (non)attachment to the nation. These questions confirm that citizens do question the attachment of illegal immigrants, particularly in their level of wanting and demonstrating loyalty to America. I find strong evidence to suggest that both personal attachment and immigrant (non)attachment drive hostile immigration attitudes, particularly toward policies that implicate illegal immigrants. Finally, I find strong evidence of an interactive effect of both factors upon hostility. Considered together, these results suggest that threats to American identity are in fact the main determinants of whether an individual is willing to voice a hostile immigration attitude.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Beck, Paul
Commitee: McDaniel, Eric, Nelson, Thomas, Nooruddin, Irfan
School: The Ohio State University
Department: Political Science
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 78/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Political science
Keywords: Immigration, Public opinion, Social identity theory
Publication Number: 10631263
ISBN: 978-0-355-01533-1
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