Real-World Developments Predict Immigration News in Right-Wing Media: Evidence from Germany
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Description: Exclusionist positions on immigration have become a key component of right-wing ideology in most countries around the world. Combining group threat and news values theory, this study sheds light on the emergence of right-wing discourses on immigration based on one of Germany’s most influential right-wing print outlets. I employ supervised and unsupervised machine-learning methods on almost 54,000 articles published between 1998 and 2019 to test whether real-world conditions shape immigration news. Results show that reporting on immigration generally increased over time and peaked during the refugee inflow in 2015/16. Immigration numbers, foreigner crime rates, and Jihadist terror attacks predict the salience of the immigration issue in the overall news as well as discursive shifts within immigration news. During times of high immigration, articles were more likely to address topics related to deportation and closing borders or the criminalization of immigration. Terrorism was more present in immigration news after attacks, especially after attacks in Germany. Foreigner crime did not significantly increase reporting on crime in immigration news. In short, right-wing immigration discourses seem responsive to real-world developments and events that enable exclusionary rhetoric and a threatening portrayal of immigrants.