Mediatized Realities of Migrants in a Comparative Perspective: Media Use, Deservingness, and Threat Perceptions in the United States and Western Europe

David De Coninck, Christine Ogan, Lars Willnat, Leen d'Haenens


Whereas European countries received more than a million refugees in 2015 alone, the United States admitted just over a half million that year and only 25,782 in 2019, following limits placed by the Trump administration. The rhetoric surrounding the alleged dangers migrants pose pushed the issue to the front of the political agenda in Europe and the United States, resulting in significant shifts in public opinion. Based on five similar surveys conducted in four European countries (N = 6,000) and in the United States (N = 1,031), this study focuses on how perceptions of migrant deservingness might be affected by television news exposure and perceived threat. The findings indicate that in Europe, exposure to public news is associated with lower threat perceptions and greater deservingness, whereas exposure to commercial news is associated with higher threat perceptions and lower deservingness. In the United States, exposure to CNN is associated with lower threat perceptions and greater deservingness, but exposure to Fox News is associated with greater threat perceptions and lower deservingness. The study also found that realistic threat plays a greater role than symbolic threat in lowering public perceptions of deservingness in the United States, whereas the reverse is true in Europe.


immigrants, refugees, Europe, United States, intergroup threat theory, media use, deservingness

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