According to a new study, attitudes towards immigrants in the USA changed completely over time. Were they treated differently before? What triggered the change?
Attitudes towards migrants vary across cultures and countries. The greater or lesser reception that one has with those who come from other lands is something complex that often involves many factors, such as the history of the place, the culture, and local migratory policies. But what is most striking is when this attitude varies so much in such a short time and in the same country, as in the case of the treatment received by immigrants in the USA.
A few days ago, a new study carried out using AI revealed that hostility towards migrants or anti-immigration sentiments, in general, have not always existed in the United States. What happened then?
An Innovative Study Analyzes The Treatment Received By Immigrants In The United States
The study we are talking about was based on the use of artificial intelligence and was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The results of the research provide a surprising historical perspective that makes us reflect on the treatment that immigrants in the USA receive today.
The methodology used by the researchers consisted of the analysis of the tone of the presidential and congressional speeches from 1880 to the present. In total, the team evaluated 8 million speeches and then delved into more than 200,000 that were relevant to immigration in the United States. Through analysis of the language and the terms used, the researchers determined whether the speeches were positive, negative, or neutral.
Negative discourses, that is, racist or anti-immigrant narratives, tended to use words associated with crime, threats, cheap labor, and terrorism. In contrast, the positive discourses, pro-immigration, were more likely to use terms associated with community, hard work, humanitarian needs, and contributions to the country.
The Second World War Marked A Before And After In The Treatment Of Immigrants In The United States
In short, the study found that the general trend of political speeches regarding immigrants in the USA was very hostile until World War II. But after this event, it quickly became more favorable, a trend that has continued, on average, to the present day. But let’s see more in detail.
According to specialists, the general tendency of speeches before the 1920s was markedly negative. But within a single generation, between 1945 and 1965, it changed to remarkably mostly positive. Fortunately, the positive sentiment continued to grow in recent decades, even after the border reopened in 1965 and when the flow of immigrants from Central America and Asia replaced migration from Europe.
At the same time, however, attitudes toward immigrants in the USA have become increasingly polarized along partisan lines. Among those who oppose immigration, hostility remains high. Republicans are much more likely to use subtly dehumanizing language that implicitly characterizes immigrants as animals, machines, or cargo.
This hostile rhetoric towards Latino immigrants and particularly Mexicans that is currently taking place among anti-immigration politicians is very reminiscent of that used against Chinese immigrants at the end of the 19th century when they were the object of the first immigration restrictions.
Differences Between Republican Speeches and Democrat Speeches
Until around the year 1980, the speeches of Republican politicians and Democratic politicians had a similar tone, being mostly negative until World War II and positive since then. But the two parties began to diverge after 1980 and promptly after 2000.
The researchers note that the overall result of the study is that anti-immigration sentiments have decreased. This is consistent with recent public polling. This was stated by Ran Abramitzky, an economics professor and economic historian at Stanford linked to the study.
“Although views on immigration are more polarized by party than ever, there is a silent majority that favors immigration. Attitudes toward immigration are more positive now than at almost any other time in US history.”
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