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The relationship between media use and public opinion on immigrants and refugees: A Belgian perspective

David De Coninck, Koen Matthijs, Marlies Debrael, Willem Joris, Rozane De Cock and Leen d’Haenens
From the journal Communications

Abstract

Belgium, and Europe in general, has seen a strong increase in the number of refugees arriving over the past three years. At the same time we also note an increasing polarization of Belgian public opinion on this subject. Among the main actors to shape this public opinion are news media, as they contribute to or combat stereotyping of (sub)groups in the population. The purpose of the current study is to analyze to which extent media consumption and trust have an impact on public opinion on two minority groups – immigrants and refugees – in a representative sample of the Belgian adult population (n = 1500). We gathered data on Belgian news media consumption and trust, and attitudes on immigrants and refugees through an online questionnaire. The results indicate that Belgian adults hold more positive attitudes on immigrants than on refugees. The reading of quality online newspapers as well as high levels of trust in television and radio are correlated with a positive attitude towards both groups, whereas the consumption of commercial television and popular newspapers go along with a negative attitude. Fear of terrorism (negative relation) and a negative evaluation of media coverage of refugees (positive relation) also have a sizeable influence. In terms of regional differences within Belgium, we find that citizens in the Brussels Capital Region hold more positive attitudes towards both groups than those in Flanders and Wallonia.

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Published Online: 2018-08-02
Published in Print: 2018-08-28

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