Path-to-Citizenship or Deportation? How Elite Cues Shaped Opinion on Immigration in the 2010 U.S. House Elections

by Bradford S. Jones and Danielle Joesten Martin (California State University, Sacramento)
in Political Behavior (2016)

The ascendency of immigration as an issue in elections has been concomitant with massive increases in the Hispanic population in the U.S. We examine how immigration cues prompt greater or lesser levels of restrictionist sentiment among individuals, showing demographic context conditions the effect of candidates cues. Using data from the 2010 U.S. House elections, we illustrate cues presented in new destination states—states with massive increases in the size of the Hispanic population from 1990 to 2010—have a larger impact on individuals’ immigration preferences than cues presented in non-new destination contexts. We show candidates with more extreme immigration positions are more likely to prioritize the issue of immigration in their campaigns, suggesting campaign prioritization of immigration has a directional cue. We conclude these directional cues from Republican candidates in new destination contexts move individual attitudes toward restrictionist preferences.

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