McNair Scholars Program USC

Andrea Martinez, Admitted to Stanford Univ.

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Major and Classification

Political Science,Chicano Studies and Psychology

Faculty Mentor

  • Ricardo Ramirez, Ph.D.

Department

  • Political Science and American Studies & Ethnicity

Graduate School Admission Status

  • Admitted to Stanford University, Ph.D. Program in Political Science

McNair Project

A Los Angeles, California Electorate Case Study: Investigating the Effect of Framing on Group Emotions and Group Policy Opinion as it Relates to Politicians' Rhetoric Relating to the Mexican/Latino Illegal Immigration Issue

Politicians recognize the value of emotional appeals when attempting to influence opinion and garner public support. However, research concerning the impact of rhetorical framing on emotions often considers emotion to be an individual level-phenomenon. Using Inter-group Emotions Theory (IET), this study investigates the effect of framing on the emotional responses and political perspectives of groups on the issue of illegal immigration as it relates to Mexicans and other Latinos. The findings of this study lend support to the theory that individual responses are often reflections of engendered (i.e., produced and learned) group emotions that are derived from individual affiliations with social groups, community circles, and collective ways of thinking. Why is a group analysis important? In order to gauge and better understand the larger picture of an issue, politicians and other policy makers often rely on aggregate data or the information deciphered from multiple sources. Why focus on the Mexican/Latino immigration issue? This population is usually at the center of the discussions surrounding illegal immigration, particularly in states close to the U.S. - Mexico Border. In an online survey taken by nearly 1,800 registered voters from Los Angeles County, participants read a simulated excerpt from a presidential campaign speech that argued for an increase in U.S. - Mexico border security to curb illegal immigration. This speech also pointed out the negative impact of illegal immigration generally on Americans. The excerpt employed either a thematic frame, which focused on statistics related to immigration, or an episodic frame, which focused on the plight of an individual. Further, the ethnicity and race of a "victimized" group or person varied within the frame. Survey data was grouped and analyzed according to different demographic characteristics including ethnicity, race, sex, age, education level, income, etc. Contrary to findings from prior framing studies, group results of this study showed that episodic frames were not significantly more emotionally engaging than thematic frames. Also, both frames elicited similar levels of change in policy opinion, but in a direction opposite from that of the excerpt's argument. Results suggest that groups' reactions to rhetorical strategies are particular to the policy issue at hand within the present-day societal context. The analysis of the study's findings indicate that a person's response (e.g., relating to emotion and perspective) is often an interpretation of a set of emotions espoused by particular groups. Findings suggest that such emotions stem from individual affiliations with identifiable social groups, peer circles, and schools of thought. As predicted from the political and racialized nature of the issue relating to Mexican/Latino illegal immigration, emotional reaction and policy opinion differed markedly according to study participant ethnicity and race and featured ethnicity and race. Important to mention, the study revealed that ethnicity and race, while not the central focus of this investigation, are factors to take into account when seeking to understand the opinions and decisions of members of the electorate on sensitive issues such as illegal immigration, particularly with a diverse electorate where individuals have close family or cultural ties, or regional socio-political tolerances (or intolerances) to the origin country where the illegal immigration is coming from. This research helps reveal the complexities of group-level responses to politicians' rhetoric with different U.S. groups that are part of the electorate.