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Prejudice and Social Media: Attitudes Toward Illegal Immigrants, Refugees, and Transgender People

Abstract

Social media is widely used and has become an important source for news (Mitchell A, Page D, The role of news on Facebook: common yet Incidental. PEW Research Center, October 24, 2013). While there exists a growing body of literature on the effects of social media on the user, questions remain about how social media use might shape users’ views of disparaged social groups. In particular, how using social media as a key news source, tailoring their experience to be exposed only to those people and ideas they agree with (selective exposure), and the diversity of their social network may foment prejudice. Drawing on a sample of college students from three universities, this project examined the relationship between social media use and prejudicial attitudes toward three social groups that have been the focus of news media in recent years: immigrants, refugees, and transgender people. Our findings show complexity. First, social media as a news source, selective exposure, and network diversity do not impact attitudes toward immigrants. Second, network diversity softens attitudes toward refugees. Third, those who frequently use social media as a news source have more positive attitudes toward transgender people while those who more frequently access social media for specifically political news have more negative attitudes toward transgender people.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We included the two respondents who identified as “other” in the “female” category. We speculate that those who identify as something other than male or female may be more similar to women in their attitudes and experiences due to their gender minority status.

  2. 2.

    We kept the original wording of “gays/lesbians” for the feeling thermometer rather than changing it to reflect warmth toward “transgender people” as research shows attitudes toward all these groups tend to be strongly correlated (Norton & Herek, 2013).

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Davidson, T., Farquhar, L. (2020). Prejudice and Social Media: Attitudes Toward Illegal Immigrants, Refugees, and Transgender People. In: Farris, D., Compton, D., Herrera, A. (eds) Gender, Sexuality and Race in the Digital Age. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-29855-5_9

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