Deciding Who's Legitimate: News Media Framing of Immigrants and Refugees

Andrea Lawlor, Erin Tolley


With its relatively high immigration levels and comparatively favorable public opinion, Canada is often seen as a bastion of support for immigrants and refugees. We argue that support is uneven because Canadians differentiate between economic immigrants and those who arrive on humanitarian grounds. Our conclusion is supported by an automated content analysis of Canadian print media coverage over a 10-year period, an approach that allowed us to capture a wide swath of discourse. We found distinct differences in the framing of immigrants and refugees. Immigrants are framed in economic terms, whereas greater attention is focused on the validity of refugee claims, potential security threats, and the extent to which refugees “take advantage” of social programs. More focus is also given to refugees’ national origins, and that framing is disproportionately negative. Our analysis illustrates the discursive distinctions that are drawn between immigrants and refugees and the hierarchy of preferences for the former over the latter.



: media coverage, immigrants, refugees, automated text analysis, framing, Canada

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