Narrative Characteristics in Refugee Discourse: An Analysis of American Public Opinion on Afghan Refugee Crisis After the Taliban Takeover

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Virginia Tech


The United States (U.S.) military withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021 was met with turmoil as Taliban regained control of most of the country, including Kabul. These events have affected many and were widely discussed on social media, especially in the U.S. In this work, we focus on Twitter discourse regarding these events, especially potential opinion shifts over time and the effect social media posts by established U.S. legislators might have had on online public perception. To this end, we investigate two datasets on the war in Afghanistan, consisting of Twitter posts by self-identified U.S. accounts and conversation threads initiated by U.S. politicians. We find that Twitter users' discussions revolve around the Kabul airport event, President Biden's handling of the situation, and people affected by the U.S. withdrawal. Microframe analysis indicates that discourse centers the humanitarianism underlying these occurrences and politically leans liberal, focusing on care and fairness. Lastly, network analysis shows that Republicans are far more active on Twitter compared to Democrats and there is more positive sentiment than negative in their conversations.



immigration, refugees, political polarization, public opinion, political discourse, microframe analysis, moral foundation theory, network analysis.