Attitudes Towards Immigration Following the 2018 Family Separation Crisis: Content Analysis of Tweets in The Washington Post vs Fox News

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Abstract Summary

In May 2018, the Trump administration implemented a “zero-tolerance” policy on immigration, essentially treating asylum seekers as criminals and creating a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. Parents and children were separated, causing outrage among the general population. In response, the zero-tolerance policy was rescinded in June, and a federal judge ordered children to be reunited with their parents.


This study used content analysis of 395 tweets from June and October articles in the Washington Post and FOX News about the immigration crisis. Tweets were coded in two ways: 1) Pro-immigration or anti-immigration sentiment, and 2) Reasons for opinions on immigration. The analysis revealed that tweets about immigration fell within five categories: Legality, Economic Concerns, Human Rights, Crime, and Morality.


Not surprising was the finding that tweets from The Washington Post, a liberal news source, were more pro-immigration than Tweets from FOX News, a conservative news source. However, when looking over time, both news sources showed a decline in pro-immigration Tweets and an increase in anti-immigration tweets between June and October. By October, a majority of Tweets from both news sources were anti-immigration. Results also revealed that commenters were more concerned with whether immigration was “right” or “wrong” than how immigration would concretely affect them. Many comments showed a lack of understanding on immigration issues, including the lack of knowledge of laws, policies and rights for those who seek asylum, and point to the need for education. Implications of the findings and for future research will be discussed.

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PM1 (1:00 -2:00)