December 2016

No. 10419: Does Information Change Attitudes Towards Immigrants? Representative Evidence from Survey Experiments

We study whether providing information about immigrants affects people's attitude towards them. First, we use a large representative cross-country experiment to show that, when people are told the share of immigrants in their country, they become less likely to state that there are too many of them. Then, we conduct two online experiments in the U.S., where we provide half of the participants with five statistics about immigration, before evaluating their attitude towards immigrants with self-reported and behavioral measures. This more comprehensive intervention improves people's attitude towards existing immigrants, although it does not change people's policy preferences regarding immigration. Republicans become more willing to increase legal immigration after receiving the information treatment. Finally, we also measure the same self-reported policy preferences, attitudes, and beliefs in a four-week follow-up, and we show that the treatment effects persist.