How the Media Frames the Immigration Debate: The Critical Role of Location and Politics

Stephanie A. Fryberg*, Nicole M. Stephens, Rebecca Covarrubias, Hazel Rose Markus, Erin D. Carter, Giselle A. Laiduc, Ana J. Salido

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


The media plays an important role in how the American public understands controversial social and political issues, such as immigration. The purpose of this article is to examine how key features of the media, such as location (Arizona vs. National) and political ideology (Liberal vs. Conservative), affect the framing of arguments supporting and opposing the anti-immigration bill (Arizona SB 1070). A content analysis was conducted using 3 weeks of newspaper articles from two Arizona newspapers (one Conservative, one Liberal) and five national newspapers (three Conservative, two Liberal). Analyses revealed that both location and political ideology influenced the framing. Specifically, the national newspapers were more likely than Arizona newspapers to frame arguments supporting the bill in terms of threats (e.g., threats to economic and public safety) and to frame arguments against the bill in terms of civil rights issues (e.g., racial profiling). In terms of political ideology, Conservative newspapers were more likely than Liberal newspapers to frame the bill in terms of economic and public safety threats, but did not differ in mentions of civil rights issues. The implications for attitudes toward immigrants and legal ethnic minorities and for defining the boundaries of the American national identity are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-112
Number of pages17
JournalAnalyses of Social Issues and Public Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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