The world faces a humanitarian crisis, partly driven by the thousands of undocumented migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean trying to reach the United States. For human rights advocates, one of the most pressing challenges in addressing this crisis is how to improve citizens’ attitudes toward immigrants. While a growing scientific consensus indicates that hearing about the experiences of outgroup members reduces intergroup bias, we still know little about which specific narratives can durably reduce anti-migrant sentiment and promote pro-immigrant behavior. Drawing on multiple theoretical traditions from social psychology and political science, we fill this gap by examining the policy, prejudice-reduction, and altruistic consequences of four types of personal narratives that (1) challenge the association between migrants and criminals, (2) highlight shared life
aspirations between natives and migrants, (3) depict migrants as hardworking, and (4) highlight the solidarity of fellow native citizens. We test the implications of empathy-based audiovisual media campaigns by focusing on Mexico, a country that has repeatedly responded to the humanitarian crisis at the border with repressive tactics, including militarization and use of force, apprehensions in detention facilities, the separation of children from their parents, and massive deportation of refugees. Our research program relies on a mixed method approach, combining extensive fieldwork research with a series of survey experiments embedded in large-scale online surveys that oversample respondents in high migration states in the northern and southern borders of Mexico. This preanalysis plan (PAP) contains the description of our experimental design, power analysis, and the ways
we anticipate analyzing the data. We will conduct a three-wave panel study with approximately 8,000 individuals taking the baseline survey. We anticipate publishing at least three studies using data from the three-wave panel.
The number of international migrants across the world has grown steadily over the last two decades, reaching 281 million in 2020. In the Western Hemisphere, intra-regional migration and migration to the United States have both reached unprecedented levels, mainly driven by flows from violence and poverty ridden nations, including Haiti, Venezuela, Colombia, Nicaragua, and Northern Central American countries. Our project addresses the following core research question: How can human rights defenders promote empathy and solidarity toward immigrants in adverse contexts, where the state criminalizes immigrants and represses them? Drawing from literature in social and political psychology, our research program seeks to identify narratives that can reduce anti-immigrant sentiment and promote pro-immigrant behavior by triggering empathy. We argue that empathy-based education and media campaigns are particularly effective in generating durable attitudinal and behavioral change, including reduced support for violence against immigrants and increased pro-immigrant policy support, altruism, and political mobilization.
We will collect our data via Netquest. Our survey will include individuals across the national territory and also oversample three border states: Chiapas, Baja California, and Nuevo Leon. Our study consists of a three-wave panel, with experiments embedded in the second wave of the survey. We will create five main experimental groups: four treatments and a control.
Each of the four treatments corresponds to each of the narratives derived from our theoretical framework. Our main analysis will consist in comparing each treatment versus the control group. Yet because we are also interested in assessing whether a similar narrative produces the same effects independent of migrants’ nationality, we will vary the type of migrants (Latinos or Haitians, given their centrality in Mexico). We will therefore have 9 videos in total (3 to test H.1. because we also have a mixed version that combines Haitians and Latin migrants, and 2 for each of the other three treatments). However, to reiterate, our main empirical analysis will collapse the multiple videos into the treatment of interest. For example, the three videos corresponding to the narrative that challenges the association between migrants and criminals (H.1.) will initially be combined into a single treatment. Only then will we examine the potential effect of each separate video to see if host citizens are more reticent to accept messages from certain nationalities.
H.1. Personal narratives that challenge immigrants’ involvement with criminal groups
reduce anti-immigrant sentiment and promote pro-immigrant behavior
H.2. Personal narratives that emphasize shared life aspirations between migrants and local
citizens reduce anti-immigrant sentiment and promote pro-migrant behavior.
H.3. Personal narratives that depict migrants as hardworking reduce anti-immigrant
sentiment and promote pro-migrant behavior.
H.4. Personal narratives that show native citizens’ solidarity towards migrants reduce antiimmigrant sentiment and promote pro-migrant behavior.