Not Just a National Issue: Effect of State-Level Reception of Immigrants and Population Changes on Intergroup Attitudes of Whites, Latinos, and Asians in the U.S.

Yuen Huo
John Dovidio
Deborah Schildkraut

National discourse about immigration in the United States is at an impasse with no clear federal action in either the Obama or Trump administrations. However, a focus on national policies overlooks the growing influence of large numbers of local programs and policies that affect how immigrants are received in communities across the U.S. Two studies examine how information about whether local reception of immigrants is welcoming or hostile impact relations among US born and immigrant members of different ethnic groups. Among White Americans, welcoming policy proposals elicited more positive attitude toward immigrants and Latinos, especially when rate of immigration is stable. Among Latinos, hostile reception coupled with high rate of immigration led to less positive attitudes toward immigrants and lower feelings of belonging. In contrast, Asians’ attitudes toward immigrants were not affected by contextual information about immigration. Importantly, there were no negative responses to welcoming policies relative to hostile policies among any of these groups. Together, these findings highlight the potential of local immigrant reception in shaping community members’ views of new arrivals. In the absence of federal action on immigration reform, the proliferation of subnational programs and policies will play an increasingly important role in whether immigrants will successfully incorporate into the host society.