Panel Paper: Native Attitudes Toward Refugees: Media Framing in the United States and Canada

Monday, April 10, 2017 : 2:15 PM
HUB 269 (University of California, Riverside)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Janine J. Allwright, Walden University
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees operates under a United Nations mandate to resolve refugee crises. The most favored solution for refugees is always repatriation to the country of origin or, if this option is not feasible, integration in the area of refuge. When neither can be fulfilled, resettlement in a third country become a last and rare option that requires cooperation from receiving countries. The ongoing Syrian conflict has led to a refugee crisis that is amplified by violence and war in the region, limiting local resettlement options for refugees. Lack of opportunities for refugees in the Middle East has created an immediate need for resettlement in third countries, and the United Nations has urged Western governments to accept Syrian refugees for resettlement.

The United States has been a reliable resettlement country for refugees since the enactment of the Displaced Persons Act in 1948 and stands out for sizeable refugee admissions from regions marred by war, violence, or persecution. Current refugee policies are defined under the Refugee Act of 1980, which promotes the admission of nearly 60,000 refugees annually. Recent terrorist attacks, both in Europe and the United States, unearthed fears of possible threats, which have created negative attitudes toward refugees who are awaiting resettlement. While the U.S. federal government expressed a desire to welcome Syrian refugees in 2015 and 2016, a majority of state governors have verbalized resistance to future refugee resettlement in their state. Resistance toward additional refugee resettlement became an issue of contention during the 2016 presidential election campaign, and the newly inaugurated president has since released two executive orders that limit further refugee resettlement. In contrast, the Canadian government has resettled 25,000 Syrian refugees during 2015 and early 2016, welcomed an additional 30,000 Syrians in the remainder of 2016, and vowed to continue its welcome to Syrian refugees.

The differences between Canada and the United States in their willingness to invite Syrian refugees for resettlement are pronounced, and stand out as differences in the outcome of the individual refugee policies. Researchers have shown that the design, implementation, and execution of public policies is sensitive to the framing of public policy issues in the media. The purpose of the proposed study is to examine whether the framing of media reports about refugees differs between the two countries and the examination will focus on negative attitudes toward refugees.

The results of this study will contribute to the existing database of media content analyses, specifically adding to the current knowledge of media framing of immigrants. While refugees are often implicitly viewed as immigrants, attention to refugees as a stand-alone group fills a gap in the literature. The examination of the proposed study will address media content in the context of an increasing threat or perceived threat of terrorism and will assess how the media frames refugees under the influence of a threat, as a reflection of native attitudes toward refugees.