The media is said to play a key role in what people think about migration, but little is known about how, when and why it affects them.
In her doctoral dissertation, Nora Theor explored the approaches to migration and common patterns and mechanisms in six European countries: Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany and Hungary.
The difference between traditional and alternative media
In Sweden, traditional media do not seem to have greatly affected the attitudes of users. This is despite the fact that the highest number of refugees arrived in the country in 2014-2016, when 160,000 refugees arrived in the country.
On the other hand, those who consumed “alternative” media were affected. Followers of the alternative right-wing platform Samhällsnytt (formerly Avpixlat) were very negative about immigration from countries outside the EU, while those who read the left-wing ETC turned out to be very positive.
– We need to be aware of this difference when talking about the influence of the media on public opinion and migration issues. Nora Theorin says that a particularly clear political, especially immigration-sensitive, profile media has increasingly established itself as a source of information in many Western democracies.
Emotions are important
To find out how important the media portrays immigration and immigration, he conducted an experiment with 5,510 participants in different countries. They came across positive and negative articles about migration – which provoked a variety of emotions.
When immigrants appeared in a positive environment, the negative feelings of the readers diminished and led to more positive attitudes. At the same time, the positive emotions of those who read negative articles were diminished, and they also had negative attitudes towards immigration.
– Emotions seem to be an important mechanism and can act as so-called mediating variables or factors that explain why people are affected by immigration representations in the media.
Media usage and threats
When researchers look at it internationally, it seems that the media is more likely to trigger experiences of threats when it comes to immigration than they are to Europe. Immigration from countries outside of Europe was mainly associated with cultural threats, while the only negative impact on migration into Europe was on the economy.
– But the results are so different between countries, says Nora Theorin that no global effects or common patterns can be talked about.
In general, the impact of the media in Sweden and internationally was less than she expected. She believes that many, long before the study, had already established such strong ideas about migration that they were difficult to change.
Nora Theorin, PhD Student, Department of Journalism, Media and Communication JMG, [email protected]
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