An investigation into the effects of pro-immigrant and Muslim attitudes on sympathetic reactions towards Syrian immigrants during the Syrian Civil War

Conrad Baldner, Daniela Di Santo


Syria has been the scene of a brutal civil war since 2011 and there has been increased media attention on the fate of Syrian refugees who seek to immigrate to more peaceful countries. Sympathy, as a desire to help others in need, could be a powerful motivation to accept and support Syrian immigrants. However, not all individuals will feel sympathy towards these immigrants. Consistent with recent research on attitudes and desires, we hypothesized that positive attitudes towards (1) immigrants and (2) Muslims would predict sympathetic reactions towards a specific Syrian Immigrant family residing in the United States. We found significant main effects for both types of attitude, controlling for personal distress (i.e., a self focused force that can co-occur with sympathy), political orientation, participants’ immigrant status, and demographic variables. A bias against immigrants, Muslims, or both can explain why individuals can react to the plight of Syrian immigrants without sympathy.


immigration; sympathy; Syria

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  ISSN PRINT: 1125-5196  -   ISSN ONLINE: 1974-4854