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Media Framing and Partisan Identity: The Case of Immigration Coverage and White Macropartisanship

  • Marisa A. Abrajano (a1), Zoltan Hajnal (a1) and Hans J. G. Hassell (a2)

Laboratory studies frequently find that framing changes individual issue positions. But few real-world studies have demonstrated framing induced shifts in aggregate political opinions, let alone political identities. One explanation for these divergent findings is that the competitive nature of most real-world political debates presents multiple frames that cancel each other out. We assess this proposition and the extent of real-world framing by focusing on the issue of immigration, which has been framed in largely negative terms by the media. Specifically, we assess the connection between New York Times coverage of immigration and aggregate white partisanship over the last three decades. We find that negative framing on immigration is associated with shifts toward the Republican Party—the Party linked with anti-immigrant positions. This suggests that under the right circumstances, framing can alter core political predispositions and shape the partisan balance of power.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Hans J. G. Hassell, Cornell College, Mount Vernon, IA. E-mail:
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