Thursday, December 6, 2018
This paper explores perceptions among white Americans about Hispanics in the United States, the relationship between perceptions and policy stances on immigration and laws pertaining to culture (like official-English laws), and whether the dissemination of facts can affect perceptions and policy stances. In a survey experiment, half of the respondents were asked to guess the share of the Hispanic population living in the United States that is undocumented, unemployed, and fluent in English. The other half of respondents read true information about Hispanic documentation status, employment status, and English fluency. All respondents were then asked about immigration policies and culturally-related laws.
Results reveal that great misperceptions about Hispanics exist. People overestimate the share undocumented and unemployed, and drastically underestimate the share fluent in English. Such misperceptions have a relationship with support for restrictive immigration policies and cultural laws. Moreover, when people are faced with facts that counter their misperceptions, while most do update their perceptions accordingly, a substantial share of respondents firmly hold on to misperceptions. Finally, learning new information that counters misperceptions does not affect policy stances.