September 25, 2008

Every Now and Again--A Study on News Coverage of Immigration

Conclusions

The story of immigration in the news in 2007 was mostly a political one. The immigration agenda in the news was narrow. More than half of the stories of the news space studied pertained to legislation, most of it a particular bill in the Senate. The fuller picture of immigration issues with all its complexity tended to be covered in print more than in other media. In 2008, this trend toward political controversy might continue. We might well expect immigration to be more prominent in the campaign for president. In 2007, during which most of the presidential election coverage was dominated by horserace politics, immigration received minimal coverage within the campaign. Out of 5,657 presidential campaign stories, only 75 of them related to immigration. But with the growing Latino population it would be of interest to see if immigration as an issue will become a bigger part of the campaign rhetoric in 2008.

One important trend many scholars draw attention to is the relation between economic uncertainty and attitudes toward immigration as an issue. Usually, the intensity of feelings toward immigrants and immigration is closely related to economic conditions. As we noted in our annual report, in January 2008, economic concerns rose significantly to rival the war in Iraq as the top problem facing the country. At the same time, it also began driving the presidential primary debates and became a top issue influencing the primary vote. Studies show opposition towards immigration usually rises in periods of recession. It would be of interest to see if this will be reflected in the news media coverage of immigration, especially now that it appears US economy perils/ worries coverage is growing within the English-language media.

In the more qualitative assessment of the news on immigration, a trend of national security concerns influencing the attitude toward immigration seemed to stand out. The portrayal of the immigrant was more likely to be that of an outsider. Further content analysis on frame and tone could provide detail on how news media in the US give meaning to immigration as an issue. Here we provided you with how much attention immigration received across five media sectors in the US; which aspects of immigration received more reporting, and by whom most of the coverage was provided.