Nav: Home

Study identifies religious bias against refugees

October 10, 2019

Give me your Christian, your female, your English-speaking with a good education? While not the words on the Statue of Liberty, these seem to be the kinds of refugees that the American public prefers -- according to a new study by researchers at the University of California San Diego, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and New York University Abu Dhabi.

The study shows that religion is the most powerful source of discrimination. When you hold constant national origin, religion matters more than gender, age, fluency in English or professional skill. "On a scale of 1 to 7, among otherwise completely identical refugees from Syria, Muslims are rated a full half point lower," said UC San Diego political scientist and co-author Claire Adida.

In addition to showing that anti-Muslim bias prevails across the board in the U.S., the study also shows that it differs across subgroups: The bias is weakest among those who self-identify as non-Christian, non-white and Democrat, compared to self-identified Republicans, Christians and whites.

Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the study details a survey experiment conducted on the eve of the 2016 presidential election with a nationally representative sample of the U.S. public. American attitudes now, the researchers suspect, are likely to have become only more pronounced and polarized.

The experiment was conducted, through YouGov, with 1,800 U.S. citizen adults. It was focused on refugees from Syria in part because it enabled the researchers to hold constant national origin and assess the influence of other salient characteristics.

To arrive at their findings, the researchers used a statistical technique common in market research called "conjoint analysis." They presented all survey respondents with pairs of refugee profiles that differed by age, religion, English fluency, gender and skill-level. They then asked respondents to rate both refugees on a scale of 1 to 7, from "the U.S. should absolutely not admit" to "the US should definitely admit" that refugee. Each respondent scored three pairs of refugees, for a study total of 5,400 pairs (or 10,800 refugee profiles). The key to identifying discrimination lay in the random assignment of refugee characteristics, allowing the researchers to isolate the effects of a single trait on ratings.

One surprise of the study, Adida said, is that there doesn't seem to be a special penalty for being a Muslim man. "There is a penalty for being Muslim and a penalty for being male but not a separate special penalty for Muslim men," Adida said. "The same 'male penalty' applies to Christian refugees." This finding leads the researchers to conclude that perceived security concerns were probably not the main drivers of the respondents' choices.

Co-authors on the study, besides Adida of UC San Diego, are: Adeline Lo, a doctoral alumna of UC San Diego, who worked on the research while a postdoctoral scholar at Princeton University and is now assistant professor of political science at UW-Madison, and Melina R. Platas, a doctoral alumna of Stanford, now an assistant professor of political science at NYU Abu Dhabi.

In a different earlier paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2018, the researches show that a perspective-taking exercise - asking Americans to imagine themselves as refugees - promotes inclusionary behavior toward Syrian refugees.

Next steps: Adida, Lo and Platas are now beginning a research project to determine how well the American public understands the differences between categories of migrants (immigrant, refugee and asylum seeker) and what they know about U.S. policy on refugees. In fiscal year 2020, the United States plans to admit its lowest number of refugees since Congress created the nation's refugee resettlement program in 1980.
The present study is funded by a National Science Foundation RAPID Collaborative grant (SES-1503802) and a UC San Diego Academic Senate grant to Adida (RP56G).

University of California - San Diego

Related Discrimination Articles:

Fathers may protect their LGB kids from health effects of discrimination
Lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals who report being discriminated against but who feel close to their fathers have lower levels of C-reactive protein -- a measure of inflammation and cardiovascular risk -- than those without support from their fathers, finds a new study from researchers at NYU College of Global Public Health.
Uncovering the roots of discrimination toward immigrants
Immigrants are often encouraged to assimilate into their new culture as a way of reducing conflict with their host societies, to appear less threatening to the culture and national identity of the host population.
Using artificial intelligence to detect discrimination
A new artificial intelligence (AI) tool for detecting unfair discrimination -- such as on the basis of race or gender -- has been created by researchers at Penn State and Columbia University.
Evidence of hiring discrimination against nonwhite groups in 9 countries examined
A new meta-analysis on hiring discrimination by Northwestern University sociologist Lincoln Quillian and his colleagues finds evidence of pervasive hiring discrimination against all nonwhite groups in all nine countries they examined.
Perceived discrimination associated with well-being in adults with poor vision
This study of nearly 7,700 men and women 50 or older in England looked at how common perceived discrimination was among those with visual impairment and how that was associated with emotional well-being.
Discrimination against older people needs attention, study says
Ever cracked a joke about old people? It might seem funny, but in a world where the population aged 60 or over is growing faster than all younger age groups, ageism is no laughing matter, says a University of Alberta researcher.
Workplace discrimination: if they don't fit, they always call in sick?
Prof. Florian Kunze (University of Konstanz, Cluster of Excellence 'The Politics of Inequality') and Max Reinwald (University of Konstanz, Graduate School for Decision Sciences) investigate workplace behavior of employees who are in the minority in their teams.
Discrimination may affect adolescents' sleep quality
In a Child Development study of daily diary descriptions of discrimination by minority adolescents, experiencing discrimination during the day was associated with compromised sleep quality that night, as well as feelings of greater daytime dysfunction and sleepiness the following day.
Racial discrimination increases activism in black young adults
A recent study finds that experiencing racial discrimination makes black teens and young adults more likely to engage in social and political activism on issues that are important to black communities.
Certain moral values may lead to more prejudice, discrimination
People who value following purity rules over caring for others are more likely to view gay and transgender people as less human, which leads to more prejudice and support for discriminatory public policies, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.
More Discrimination News and Discrimination Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at