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Cynthia Najdowski:

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Attitudes towards immigration have been shown to be driven by dehumanization and disgust. The more people dehumanize immigrants and the more disgusted they feel, the more negative attitudes they tend to have toward immigrants. However, little is known about how exposure to social media content that links dehumanization, disgust, and immigration influences users’ attitudes on this issue. This is important to consider because the majority of adults in the United States are on social media. We used Twitter data, machine learning, and sentiment analysis to investigate whether exposure to dehumanizing or disgust-eliciting tweets about immigration impacts users’ own sentiment toward immigration over time. Our results were in some ways consistent and in other ways inconsistent with prior literature. They showed that either dehumanizing or disgust-eliciting language appears in 66% of our sample of tweets pertaining to immigration. Unexpectedly, however, exposure to both kinds of language in tweets about immigration related to small increases in positive sentiment about immigration over time. There was evidence of Granger-causality only for dehumanizing language, however, and only when controlling for the political affiliation of the communicator. These findings indicate that social media exposure may influence public perceptions of immigrants and immigration issues in unexpected ways.


This is the Author's Accepted Manuscript. The Version of Record appears here: Wahrer, K. S., Najdowski, C. J., & Passarelli, J. V. (2024). Effects of dehumanization and disgust-eliciting language on attitudes toward immigration: a sentiment analysis of Twitter data. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 1–26.



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