Changing Americans’ Attitudes about Immigration: Using Moral Framing to Bolster Factual Arguments

Date01 March 2022
AuthorJan G. Voelkel,Mashail Malik,Chrystal Redekopp,Robb Willer
Published date01 March 2022
DOI10.1177/00027162221083877
Subject MatterPoliticization
ANNALS, AAPSS, 700, March 2022 73
DOI: 10.1177/00027162221083877
Changing
Americans’
Attitudes about
Immigration:
Using Moral
Framing to
Bolster Factual
Arguments
By
JAN G. VOELKEL,
MASHAIL MALIK,
CHRYSTAL REDEKOPP,
and
ROBB WILLER
1083877ANN THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMYCHANGING AMERICANS’ ATTITUDES ABOUT IMMIGRATION
research-article2022
Our tendency to interpret facts in ways that are consist-
ent with our prior beliefs impedes evidence-based
attempts to persuade partisans to change their views
on pressing societal issues such as immigration.
Accordingly, most prior work finds that favorable infor-
mation about the impact of immigration has little or no
influence on policy preferences. Here, we propose that
appealing to individuals’ moral values can bolster the
persuasive power of informational interventions. Across
three experiments (total N = 4,616), we find that an
argument based on the value of in-group loyalty, which
emphasized that immigrants are critical to America’s
economic strength, combined with information about
the economic impact of legal immigration, significantly
increased Americans’ support for legal immigration.
We also find a significant effect of the moral compo-
nent of this message alone, even without factual infor-
mation. These results show that moral arguments can
strengthen the persuasiveness of informational appeals.
Keywords: immigration; persuasion; morality; infor-
mation; moral reframing
In the last decade, heated debates over immi-
gration policy have featured prominently in the
American political landscape. Many Americans
and Western Europeans view immigration as one
of the most important problems facing their
country (Blinder 2015; Jones 2019), with more
people favoring fewer new immigrants over allow-
ing more to enter (Connor and Krogstad 2018).
Jan G. Voelkel is a PhD student in the Department of
Sociology at Stanford University.
Mashail Malik is a postdoctoral fellow and incoming
assistant professor in the Department of Government at
Harvard University.
Chrystal Redekopp is the research director of the
Polarization and Social Change Lab and the Laboratory
for Social Research at Stanford University.
Robb Willer is a professor of sociology, psychology, and
organizational behavior and the director of the
Polarization and Social Change Lab at Stanford
University.
Correspondence: mashailmalik@fas.harvard.edu

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