Abstract: Utilizing Race-Class Fusion Frames to Mobilize Support for Community-Based Alternatives to Immigration Detention: A Pilot Survey Experiment (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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425P Utilizing Race-Class Fusion Frames to Mobilize Support for Community-Based Alternatives to Immigration Detention: A Pilot Survey Experiment

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Douglas Epps, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Background/Purpose: Immigration detention has been shown to inflict a wide range of harms upon those who are detained and separates family members. Yet, alternatives to human confinement, such as community-based case management (CBCM), are available. CBCM offers an evidence-based, holistic, harm-reductive strategy that may mitigate the rising mass detention crisis. Highly effective (95-99% compliance rates) yet the least restrictive, CBCM provides social and legal services to noncitizens while allowing them to remain in the community. Despite nationwide advocacy efforts to replace detention beds with CBCM, policy change is left contingent upon an electorate, in which US citizenship is required, that may perceive little personal stake in reform. Thus, how do immigrant and racial justice advocates mobilize the American electorate to change the immigration system amidst a national discourse that frames immigrants as existential threats?

The Intervention: Grounded in principles of interest convergence and collective action framing, the Race-Class Narrative (RCN) political messaging strategy (Haney Lopez, 2019), is the product of nationwide, collaborative research to improve engagement with social justice agendas. Recent research on RCN messaging suggests that framing immigrant rights issues in language that espouses common interest in cross-racial solidarity and an economy based on fairness may foster welcoming attitudes. RCN messaging is broadly effective among the political middle (59% of the sample) across a wide range of progressive policy issues. Findings have shown that RCN messaging is most effective with a demographic that mirrors the national eligible voting population with regards to race/ethnicity and party affiliation.

Methods: Data: A survey experiment was piloted (N=100) utilizing Lucid Theorem, a popular online participant recruiting tool for public opinion research.

Measures: The experimental condition includes a brief RCN vignette, intended to persuade readers to adopt more inclusive attitudes. The control condition consists of a similar vignette promoting a new home appliance intended to persuade readers to purchase the product. Drawing from Benford and Snow’s (2000) three core framing tasks, dependent variables measure framing resonance on opinions about 1) immigration in general, 2) immigration detention policy and 3) attitudes toward the implementation of community-based alternatives. Intentions to participate in political action on behalf of community-based alternatives and voting preferences are also assessed, including two novel behavioral measures.

Results: Ordered logistic regressions were conducted to estimate average treatment effect of the experimental group (RCN frame) versus the control group. Results indicate that RCN framing showed a moderate influence on participant attitudes toward several outcome measures when compared to the control condition. The experimental group was more likely to respond favorably on the immigration attitudes index, support for decreasing detention and implementation of community-based alternatives. Results for behavioral measures were not statistically significant.

Conclusions/Implications: Findings develop understanding of self-interest in advocating for social justice agendas in which the participant is not directly affected by the issue. In addition, these results further knowledge of messaging approaches that seek to unify diverse coalitions for political action and shaping attitudes toward immigration policy. Future studies could assess the durability and versatility of RCN framing effects.