Newswise — Studies are often conducted on how media messages impact individuals’ opinions, but very few have demonstrated how these messages shift political opinions and political identities of a larger group of people, until now.

Hans Hassell worked with two other researchers from the University of California to focus on the issue of immigration. They say the media has largely framed the topic negatively.

“The question we looked at is—as you see more and more news coverage about immigration, specifically Latino immigration, how does that affect people’s partisan identification?” Hassell said. “We found that as media coverage of Latino immigration increased, we saw more Caucasians moving away from the Democratic Party and toward the Republican Party.”

This finding means that under the right circumstances framing can shape the partisan balance of power. The team argues that this happens because of a perceived racial threat.

“There’s a large amount of literature on how people who don’t identify as people of color become more conservative when they perceive a racial threat to their political dominance,” Hassell said. “We argue that this is an extension of that. As there becomes more coverage of immigration and as it is perceived to be a bigger issue, Caucasians are less likely to support the Democratic Party which is pro-immigration and are more likely to support the Republican Party and identify with the Republican Party, which is a party that has become largely anti-immigration, as a result.”

Hassell said the media coverage aspect alone is interesting because fewer illegal immigrants have come from Mexico in the past 10 years, yet the number of news articles is increasing.

Hassell digs into this research to find links between changing demographics, partisan identification, and political behaviors. He says race and how people react to race is a significant component in American politics.

The research was just published online in the Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics on Jan. 25.

Journal Link: Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics