Skip to main content
Easing the Heavy Hand: Humanitarian Concern, Empathy, and Opinion on Immigration
British Journal of Political Science (2015)
  • Benjamin J. Newman, University of Connecticut
  • Todd K. Hartman, Appalachian State University
  • Patrick L. Lown, Stony Brook University
  • Stanley Feldman, Stony Brook University

The bulk of the opinion research on immigration identifies the factors leading to opposition to immigration among the American public. In contrast, we identify a key factor and condition under which citizens embrace more permissive and supportive positions on immigration. Past research indicates that humanitarianism is a core value orientation promoting support—albeit limited—for social welfare policy. Extending this research into another highly salient policy domain—immigration—we find that humanitarian concern serves as a significant source of support for permissive positions on government immigration policy. Relying upon secondary analysis of national survey data and an original survey experiment, we demonstrate that humanitarian concern significantly decreases support for restrictive immigration policy. Results from our survey experiment demonstrate that in an information environment evoking both threat and countervailing humanitarian concern regarding immigration, the latter can and does override the former. Last, our results point to the importance of individual differences in empathy in moderating the effects of both threat and humanitarian inducements.

  • Immigration,
  • Public Opinion,
  • Humanitarianism,
  • Empathy
Publication Date
Citation Information
Benjamin J. Newman, Todd K. Hartman, Patrick L. Lown and Stanley Feldman. "Easing the Heavy Hand: Humanitarian Concern, Empathy, and Opinion on Immigration" British Journal of Political Science (2015)
Available at: