Perceptions of Immigrants as a Criminal Threat: The Role of Negative Affect & Ethnocentrism

Dr. Andrew Baranauskas, Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, published a piece on the association between racial sentiment and public attitudes toward the belief that immigrants pose a criminal threat.

The paper ‚ÄúPerceptions of Immigrants as a Criminal Threat: The Role of Negative Affect and Ethnocentrism‚ÄĚ was authored by Dr. Andrew Baranauskas along with Dr. Jacob Stowell of Northeastern University.  It was published in the peer-reviewed Race and Justice.

Abstract:

A popular political narrative in the United States depicts immigrants as posing a criminal threat to the nation. This perception persists despite research showing that immigrants do not increase crime rates and may actually contribute to lower crime rates (e.g., Ousey & Kubrin, 2018). This study seeks to examine the sources of the perception that immigrants increase crime in the United States. Drawing from research in cognitive psychology, this paper examines the affect heuristic and ethnocentrism as cognitive mechanisms through which personal feelings towards particular ethnic and religious groups shape the perception that immigrants pose a criminal threat. Using data from a nationally representative election study, findings reveal that negative feelings towards illegal immigrants, Hispanics, and Muslims are associated with the perception that immigrants increase crime rates in the U.S.  Among white respondents, ethnocentrism is also associated with the perception that immigrants pose a criminal threat, even when controlling for feelings towards Hispanics and Muslims specifically. Implications for theory and research are discussed.

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Contact:

Andrew Baranauskas (abaranauskas@brockport.edu)

Posted: September 29, 2022