Securitization and Refugee Resettlement Policy: Using Social Media to Understand Public Attitudes
Tessmer, Michael Lane
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This thesis answers the question of how public opinion toward refugees and asylum-seekers expressed in opinion polls compares with that expressed through commentary on news articles posted by Cable News Network (CNN) on social media. Using a study of 2,022 Facebook comments regarding the plight of Syrian child Omran Daqneesh during the 2016 United States presidential election campaign, it reveals competing narratives in favor of and against the opening of American borders to individuals escaping conflict in Syria. The analysis of textual data encompasses themes of securitization and cosmopolitanism, the results of which provide clarity and texture to complement existing opinion poll data. While such polls provide snapshots of public opinion, an analysis of social media commentary reveals more clearly what and how people were thinking about Syrian refugees fleeing conflict and entering the United States at a specific point in time. This study leads to a heightened understanding of the nuances contributing to public opinion of refugee policies and assesses social media's capacity to reveal complexities of citizens' thinking.
General Audience Abstract
As the 2011 Syrian Civil War continues to engulf the Middle Eastern country, waves of civilians displaced by the conflict are forced to flee their homes as refugees and seek asylum in regions such as North America and Europe. In this thesis, I study the attitudes expressed on Facebook, a popular social media website, by members of the public in order to understand their reasons for supporting and opposing the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. I expected that security concerns would be a primary motive for opposing refugee resettlement and anticipated that supporters would promote more open borders and a responsibility to protect Syrians’ human rights. My analysis confirmed that security, primarily against terrorism and acts of violence, is important for those who oppose bringing Syrian refugees into the United States. It also reveals that most of the online commenters were less concerned with terrorism and more concerned with the wellbeing of civilians escaping conflict. My analysis also found a segment of commenters voicing more moderate opinions: posters in this group support refugee resettlement if certain conditions are met or they support only certain types of refugees. I also compare the sentiment expressed in social media commentary to that documented by opinion polling during the same period.
- Masters Theses