Abstract: How does the media influence attitudes towards immigration? Using online survey experiments in Italy, we randomly expose participants to real news stories about crimes committed by immigrants. Relative to a control group exposed to a neutral news (about cultural festival), we find that the crime news significantly increases opposition to immigration, notably in terms of support for more restrictive immigration policy. While posterior beliefs about immigrant criminality rates remain unaffected, participants self-report a strong emotional reaction to the news, especially an increase in fear. Using mediation analysis, we show that the intensity of emotions is the main driver of the attitudinal effect of crime news. We further show that the exposure to news stories reporting more violent crimes (sexual assault versus petty theft) causes greater backlash against immigration.
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