Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 72, Issue 1, pp 125–143 | Cite as

Anti-immigration sentiment and public opinion on human trafficking

  • Ieke de VriesEmail author
  • Connor Nickerson
  • Amy Farrell
  • Dana E. Wittmer-Wolfe
  • Vanessa Bouché


Prior research shows that anti-immigration sentiment affects public opinion about criminal justice problems and solutions. However, we know little about how these sentiments affect public opinion about human trafficking. This paper attempts to fill this gap by examining the role of anti-immigration sentiment in shaping public support for anti-trafficking efforts in the United States. Specifically, this research examines the effect of anti-immigration sentiment on the public’s understanding about vulnerabilities for human trafficking among migrant populations and corresponding support for policies directed at the protection of migrant trafficked persons. This is particularly important because public policies that safeguard migrant trafficked persons have been among the most difficult to pass despite strong support for the governmental prioritization of anti-trafficking efforts overall. Utilizing public opinion data from an original, nationally representative survey experiment of 2000 Americans, this study finds that anti-immigration sentiment (1) is associated with greater recognition of the vulnerability of immigrants to human trafficking victimization; (2) does not impact public support for a general governmental prioritization of human trafficking policies; yet (3) creates less public support for victim services for non-citizen trafficked persons; and (4) stems from differences in political views impacting support for services for immigrant victims. These findings contribute to an understanding of the role of anti-immigration sentiment in public opinion about crime and have implications for policies aimed at improving the identification of and outcomes for migrant trafficked persons.



The current study was, in part, funded by a Research Scholar Fellowship of the Violence and Justice Research Laboratory at Northeastern University (2017) awarded to the first two authors of this manuscript. The original research was funded by the National Institute of Justice, Grant #2012-MU-CX-0027.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Criminology and Criminal JusticeNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA
  2. 2.School of Criminology and Criminal JusticeNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA
  3. 3.Northeastern UniversityBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Political ScienceColorado CollegeColorado SpringsUSA
  5. 5.Department of Political ScienceTexas Christian UniversityFort WorthUSA

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