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Attitudes can be described as narrow when they mirror positive or negative assessment of an entity and wide ranging when they comprise principles with the character of assessment (Schuman, Charlotte, Lawrence & Maria, 1997). Either way, they can be positive and accommodating or negative and stand-offish.
White people generally hold varying attitudes towards immigrants and pro-immigrant policies, that is, policies that favour immigration. Pessimists feel that immigrants should not benefit from pro-immigrant policies for various reasons.
They are of the opinion that immigrants seize career opportunities from American born citizens, the state uses up a lot of money aiding them and that their presence leads to escalation of delinquency and law-breaking.
Optimists on the other hand have entirely different views. They believe that immigrants contribute to advancement in America by coming up with fresh initiatives, enhancing their culture and are beneficial to Americas economy in general.
They further express that officially authorized immigrants who are not American citizens should be given similar rights and freedoms to those of citizens and that children of non-citizens who are born in America should have the right to citizenship.
These attitudes and subsequent opinions are shaped mainly by core networks (a person’s contacts), group threat from immigrants or intergroup contact with immigrants. They are further influenced by race, education level, age and religion of members of the core networks.
Core networks focus on particular people and those with whom they socialize. It is believed that a person’s opinion is often shaped by the opinion of their friends and acquaintances (Friedkin, 1990).
This is because a friend is someone you trust, open up to, compel, aspire to please and who enlightens you when you are shaping your opinion on people of different races and ethnic backgrounds and the government procedures that affect them (Friedkin 1990).
In a community setting, white peoples’ opinions on immigrants are influenced by the total number of people from other races, how learned the occupants of the community are, the period for which they have been acquainted and how close they are.
Ordinarily, in a community with many people, close associates reduce hence the likelihood of being compelled to be consistent with the accepted communal tendencies dwindles. This raises the probability of encountering recent facts and knowledge concerning a wide range of topics.
Core networks however, tend to consist of people of similar ethnicity hence diminishing the possibility of encountering recent knowledge. This is due to the fact that people of the same ethnicity have the same understanding of ethnic benefit (Blau, 1977).
On the other hand, when core networks consist of members of diverse cultural backgrounds, they share knowledge that benefits the different cultures (Bienenstock, Bonacich & Oliver; 1990).
White people who associate with other races have a high probability of being informed on immigrant-friendly reason thus improving their attitude towards immigrants.
Peoples’ attitudes are also affected by how learned they are. Highly learned people associate with more people of diverse racial backgrounds. This is mainly because they work with a wide range of people. This cultivates a sensitive stance towards immigrants and immigration policies that favour them.
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A professor in a college, for instance, is likely to have students of different ethnicities in his classes. This exposes him to their beliefs, practices and helps him see their contribution to America’s culture and economy.
Subsequently, he exposes his colleagues, friends and family to those views and they do the same in their social circles. This shows that an educated network can influence peoples’ views on immigration and immigration policies.
Age on the other hand seems to have an unenthusiastic association with immigration issues. Mature people see immigrants more as a burden than as profitable contributors in society thus support more constraints being placed in immigration processes and immigrants.
Accordingly, in deep-rooted core networks, people are likely to be convinced not to uphold pro-immigrant views. The closeness of the members of a core network also determines their ability to influence each others’ opinions on immigrant issues.
When people in a core network are very close, they are constantly in contact with each other and therefore reserve little, if any time for the people outside their social circles (Oliver & Wong, 2003).
This kind of behavior drastically lowers their chances of encountering notions that differ from their points of view and makes it much easier to convince ones’ contacts to maintain ancient views on issues such as immigration. In most cases, the maintained views are usually negative and unsupportive of pro-immigration policies.
Group Threat and Intergroup Contact
In the surroundings of a community, white residents are likely to either get acquainted with immigrants, known as intergroup contact, or feel intimidated by the large numbers of immigrants around them, referred to as group threat.
The probability of these two occurrences is frequently estimated using the population of immigrants in a particular area (Krystan, 2000).
White people are set in various core networks within their communities which are depended upon by researchers to influence the connection between immigration issues, group threat and intergroup contact.
Whites feel threatened by the large numbers of immigrants in urban areas such as cities and counties.
This depreciates their general outlook on immigration issues specifically when their level of education is low and also in cases where they happen to have few associations of different racial and ethnic backgrounds in their social circles.
Then again, when members of a social circle are well learned or have numerous relations in it, including several of varying ethnicities, they tend to feel less threatened by the presence of many immigrants.
This is due to the fact that they obtain current knowledge concerning immigrants and immigration policies from their contacts and co-workers (Oliver & Wong 2003).
In the same way, places that experience constructive intergroup contact such as residential estates and zonal localities, these relations encourage an optimistic outlook on immigration policies and immigrants in the case that correlations are poorly educated and have few contacts of different races.
This is because the views of the immigrants seem more genuine than those of their fellow whites. However, in those very areas, social circles of the incredibly learned that also have numerous contacts of different ethnicities may appear less supportive of immigration policies and immigrants.
This is caused by their various negative personal experiences with their associations of different ethnicity. They feel that direct dealings with people of various cultural backgrounds gives more insight than that gained from a particular inter-racial contact (Friedkin 1999).
Likewise, the members of a social circle in an ancient close knit community or neighborhood are less likely to be impressed by intergroup contact. Such people constantly stay in touch hence maintain their beliefs since they have limited knowledge from other quarters.
The members are mostly compelled to disapprove any positive opinions on immigrants and immigration policies social circles.
In addition, these core networks may experience more intense feelings of group threat as opposed to the more amicable youthful social circles which share positive knowledge of immigrant issues hence fell less threatened by the number of immigrants among them.
In a strong and mature religious core network, members hold on to old teachings. Some old religions, for instance, did not allow mixing of people from different races.
Members of such groups are likely to remain unyielding to recent opinions supporting immigration policies. Members of newly rising religions however, will probably be more accommodating of the recent pro-immigrant policies.
Based on the studies conducted by various scholars over several decades, it is evident that attitudes of white people towards immigrants and pro-immigrant policies are influenced by both dependent and independent variables.
Independent variables are those that remain constant and do not change from person to person whereas dependent variables are those that vary from one person to another. A survey conducted using data collected by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) confirms the opinions of the numerous scholars.
In my opinion, Americans should strive to be more open-minded and receptive to new ideas. All people should endeavor to make their social networks broader so as to accommodate more people.
This kind of contact will allow people of all races to take part in improvement of their lives socially, economically, religiously and politically. This will be a major team player in the advancement of many sectors including the economy and will lead to overall national development.
After all, there is nothing to lose in setting out to try something new, which in this particular case does not cost money. People should also learn to take responsibility and avoid the blame game.
For instance, Americans should acknowledge that there are as many white felons as there are those of other races, whether white or blue collar. They should also realize that contrary to some peoples’ beliefs sharing opportunities with people of other ethnic groups does not limit them to Americans.
Bienenstock, E.J., Bonacich, P., & Oliver, M. (1990). The Effect of Network Density and Homogeneity on Attitude Polarization. Social Networks, 12, 153–72.
Blau, P.M. (1977). Inequality and Heterogeneity: A Primitive Theory of Social Structure. New York: Free Press.
Friedkin, N. (1990). Social Networks in Structural Equation Models. Social Psychology Quarterly, 53, 316–28.
Krystan, M. (2000). Prejudice, Politics, and Public Opinion: Understanding the Sources of Racial Policy Attitudes. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 135–68.
Oliver, J.E., & Wong, J. (2003). Intergroup Prejudice in Multiethnic Settings. American Journal of Political Science, 47, 567–82.
Schuman, H., Charlotte, S., Lawrence, B., & Maria, K. (1997). Racial Attitudes in America: Trends and Interpretations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.