MPIDR Working Paper

The interplay between refugee inflows and media coverage in determining attitudes towards immigration in Germany

MPIDR Working Paper WP-2023-035, 33 pages.
Rostock, Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (August 2023)
Open Access


In this study, we examined the role media plays in moderating the relationship between refugee influx and anti-immigration attitudes across German regions. Specifically, we focused on the salience of refugees in local news media in each region, and we explored the extent to which such attention heightened the connection between increasing refugees in an area and growth in anti-immigration views. We conducted this analysis using data from the German Socio-Economic-Panel (2011-2017), asylum applications data from the Federal Office of Statistics, and the Gdelt database, which is a real-time news database. Using a mixed effect approach, we found that the effect of refugee influx on anti-immigration attitudes across regions was moderated as expected by the salience of refugees in local news, albeit in former East Germany but not in former West Germany. We contend that this difference between East and West Germany relates to East Germany’s relatively stronger ethnonationalist attitudes. Based on this, we conclude that refugee salience in media plays an essential, albeit inconsistent, role in characterizing changes in population composition as threatening, and thus in triggering anti-immigration attitudes.

Schlagwörter: Deutschland, attitude, immigration, media, refugees
Das Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (MPIDR) in Rostock ist eines der international führenden Zentren für Bevölkerungswissenschaft. Es gehört zur Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, einer der weltweit renommiertesten Forschungsgemeinschaften.