The integrated theory of prejudice

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Research review

This chapter will give an overview of the studies in the field of the following three concepts: political communication, social media and xenophobia. Since political communication on social media – digital communication – is the main research field, this chapter will start with an overview of studies that show how social media – in particular Instagram, Twitter and Facebook – is used by politicians to communicate with their audience. After that, the third concept ‘xenophobia’ will be linked to digital political communication. The research review has been structured in themes related to the three concepts.
The main search criteria for the studies concerning digital political communication on social media were the following keywords: digital or online communication, social media, politics, political communication, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. As social media is a relatively new phenomenon, other previously conducted studies with a focus on digital communication instead of social media are included, in order to ensure a wide range of research related to the topic.

Digital political communication on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Digital political communication during elections

One of the most important time periods for politicians to communicate through internet or social media with their followers and potential voters is during a political campaign. However, this does not automatically mean that everyone can or will be reached. The study of Stier et. al (2018) shows that people who use the internet – and social media in particular – for political purposes have specific political interests, although politicians use the internet as a medium to reach a mass audience. The research was set up during the German federal elections in 2013. As mentioned before, Instagram is the youngest social medium in the list of Facebook and Twitter. It is also the medium that is used the least for online campaigning during elections (Filimonov et. al, 2016). Filimonov et. al (2016) analyse the usage of Instagram by politicians during the Swedish national elections in 2014. The study reveals that the purpose of using this particular social media platform was mainly broadcasting, rather than mobilization. Initially, campaigning on Facebook was set up for interaction with followers and potential voters. However, in the case of presidential candidate Obama’s Facebook, during the elections of 2012, it showed that people more often comment and interact on policy-oriented posts, than on posts that promoted the campaign (Justinussen & Gerodimos, 2015). Considering the growing use of social media for political aims, the study of LaMarre and Suzuki-Lambrecht (2013) examines the effectiveness of Twitter as a platform for congressional campaigns. The study reveals that candidates Twitter use increased their odds of winning. It also indicates that the key of a Twitter success in an election campaign lies in developing a large and engaged audience (LaMarre & Suzuki-Lambrecht, 2013). However, Adams and McCorkindale (2013) conducted a study that focuses on the Twitter communication style of the presidential elections of 2012, in which the candidates who were active on Twitter failed in creating a substantive conversation with their followers and potential voters. It seems that there are great advantages in communicating digitally during elections, provided that a substantive discussion is held. Moreover, Gibson and McAllister (2006) conclude that the impact of an online campaign has on the electoral support a candidate receive is significant. They claim that web campaigning plays a part on the winning strategy. But, where on the web and on which social media platform the campaign is held and political communication takes place, is mediated by the digital architecture of a platform or website (Bossetta, 2016). It can be argued that the functionality, network structure, algorithmic filtering and datafication model is of importance in the political campaign strategy on social media. This case study was focused on the 2016 US presidential elections.

Digital political communication not related to an event

It can be argued that online political engagement has a strong link with offline political participation (Conroy et. al, 2012). Conroy et. al (2012) conducted a survey among American university students on whether they promote online political engagement. However, Enli and Skogerbø (2013) discovered that Norwegian politicians used social media as a communication tool not only for marketing purposes, but also for a dialogue with their audience. Still, results show that there is no relation between the political knowledge of a person and the online participation in political groups. This is due to the low level of online political discussion (Conroy et. al, 2016). Facebook was more popular for marketing use and Twitter was used more in a dialogue way, in comparison with Facebook. The latter is the main point of the research of Yang et. al (2016), who conclude that Twitter is a good manner of conversation for American opposition politicians with their public. Yang et. al (2016) examined more than 100.000 Tweets of the former president Obama and the fifty State Governors and concluded that Republicans and Democrats tend to be more or less equally active on Twitter. Furthermore, they found that Obama had a distinctive agenda-setting strategy, that was neither related to Republicans or Democrats. It seems that American politicians with an extreme ideological agenda-setting tend to benefit more from Twitter than their opponents (Hong, 2013). This puts even more emphasis on the ideological position of a politician as it is therefore even clearer who they represent and who not. The studies that were analysed give a general view on the way how politicians use Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, either during the campaign or on a regular basis. It seems that Twitter is more useful for politicians for a dialogue with someone and Facebook is more popular for political marketing strategies. Instagram is new in the environment of political communication and is therefore more useful for an audience who is already interested in the politician, than to convince the followers. Moreover, it seems that it is difficult to attract persons who are not interested in politics by digital political communication.

Digital communication and xenophobia

The studies related to digital communication and xenophobia were found by the following search criteria: xenophobia online or digital xenophobia, social media. Despite the fact that a wide range of content was available regarding the development of xenophobia in the last decades, it was less easy to find studies that covered both features – online and xenophobia – in their research. While conducting the previous research, it turned out that scholars were more focused on digital xenophobia during an event than online xenophobia that was not related to a case-study or an event.

Digital communication and xenophobia related to an event

The rise of social media is inherent to the rise of xenophobia on the internet, for the reason that there is a great opportunity to reach a big audience and attract other sympathizers who share the same ideas. Online xenophobia is an alarming trend, because there are no limitations. Comments and thoughts can be shared with people from all over the world, with all the negative consequences of such (Oyedemi, 2015). With respect to online xenophobia, challenges arise by fundamental differences between Europe and the US. The same speech may be allowed in one of the two continents, whilst it is prohibited on the other (Rorive, 2002). The American law states that “racist and xenophobic propaganda are constitutionally protected as varieties of controversial political speech. Public authorities are therefore forbidden from interfering in the content of such communications” (p. 1). The current major social media platforms are American, follow the US law. Questions raise about on one hand, the responsible use of the internet and the protection of basic human rights and on the other hand, maintaining the freedom of speech on the internet and providing a place for public debate on difficult issues (Rorive, 2002).
Knoblock (2017) analysed the post about ‘Ban the Muslims’ (BTM) on the official Facebook-page of Donald Trump through critical discourse analysis, to find out whether this post attracts xenophobic responses. Findings were that commenters described Muslims as “others”, meaning different than Christian Americans. Also, they were described as dangerous, aggressive and linked to terrorism. Commenters also mentioned that the Muslim culture is subordinate to the American. To conclude, the people who reacted on the post, believed in their own superiority (Knoblock, 2017). By US law this is not prohibited, due to the freedom of speech and the prohibition for public authorities from interfering in the content (Rorive, 2002). There are other studies that show similar results, regarding online anti-Muslim hate, discrimination, prejudice and other threats (Awan, 2014). The offenders presented some key motivations and reasons behind their racist comments. Awan (2014) argues that the problem with the low level of online abuse reports, is a lack of awareness among people on whether something is online abuse or not. As an example, the foreign Singaporean talent migrants were exposed to online xenophobia by native Singaporeans (Gomes, 2015). Singaporeans used the foreign talent migrants as an emotional call for more attention to attack the government regarding their own concerns for their economic future. As a result, the Singaporean society became a more political environment. Although the following might not be an example of digital communication, it does show that, blaming immigrants for economical setbacks is not a new phenomenon (Lar, 2007). Another example is the West African independence, often governmental failures and economic recessions were blamed on (illegal) immigrants. It seems that immigrants are more often victim of xenophobic comments and accusations than the native population (Gomes, 2015; Lar, 2007).

Digital communication and xenophobia not related to an event

As is known, social media are the transmitters for thoughts, ideas and messages towards people all around the world. However, as Nadia et. al (2017) put it: “Social media are about YOUR life, what you like, what you feel and they cater towards what you prefer by constantly monitoring your online behaviour” (p. 67). They argue that social media does not show us the ‘real world’, but a world that we like, where all like-minded people are gathered together. Everyone reinforces their own reality rather than participating with other views. This also happens with the Twitter-account of Donald Trump. Claims have been made that Trump has popularized the term ‘political incorrectness’ – also known as fake news – which normalizes racist framing of immigration. Due to Trumps popularization of the political incorrectness, white racist people are more comfortable sharing their racist thoughts, not being aware of their own racial mind-set (Shafer, 2017). It is a good example of the current situation outlined above by Nadia et. al (2017). Not only being exposed to the same sort of messages, but also the extensive use of a particular platform can increase a racial mind-set. Studies show that an increased use of Facebook, may lead to more acceptance of negative racial messages (Rauch and Schanz, 2013). Also, users who tend to spend more time on Facebook are more exposed to the influence of messages with racial content. It seems that when young people (9-16) are exposed to this type of messages with xenophobic or racial content, are most likely adolescents with mental health problems. Also, girls are in the majority to visit these websites (Racatau, 2013). The study of Littler and Feldman (2017) shows no apparent relationship between regular use of Twitter and Facebook and immigration concerns. It can be argued that there is a distinction between leaving a xenophobic comment when personal information is public and when it is online shielded through for example a private account. Munger (2016) concludes that when a Twitter-user has an anonymous Twitter-account, it contains notably less messages with racist content. However, this was not the case when personal information of a user was visible in the profile. There was actually an increase in radical comments, according to the visibility of personal information on a social media account.

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Conclusion previous research

It can be concluded that digital political communication usually occurs on Facebook or Twitter and less on Instagram. However, this does not mean that there is no political communication on Instagram, but it happens to take place during the elections with an audience that is already interested in the politician. Facebook is better platform for political marketing strategies and Twitter is more useful to conduct a dialogue. It can be concluded that spending time on the same social media can increase a racial mind-set and that this lead to more acceptance of negative content (Rauch & Schanz, 2013). Also, the extensive use of a particular social media platform is a reason for increasing a racial mind-set, that can ultimately lead to more sympathy towards online xenophobia. A side-note in this conclusion is the presence of a public or private profile (Munger, 2016). It is concluded that an anonymous Twitter account contains less racial messages than a Twitter account where personal information was visible.

Theoretical framework

This study draws upon a critical discourse analysis of xenophobia. Therefore, the concept of xenophobia is taken as a basis for this research.

Social identity theory

Several scholars have researched the phenomenon ‘xenophobia’. Tajfel’s (1981, 1982) social psychological approach is that xenophobia means the division an individual can make, to the world which they belong (Silverman, 1992; Wrench & Solomos 1993). Tajfel (1979) introduces social identity theory, a theory about how people present themselves in intergroup contexts. According to Tajfel (1979) the definition of social identity is: “The individual’s knowledge that he belongs to certain social groups together with some emotional and value significance to him of this group membership” (p. 292). The feeling of belonging to a certain group gives us an important source of pride and self-esteem. Also, being part of a group gives one a sense of belonging and a place in the world. Thus, groups could be divided into ‘them’ – out-groups – and ‘us’ – in-groups. It happens that, in order to improve their self-esteem, in-groups discriminate against out-groups (Tajfel, 1979). There are three processes that can create this in-group or out-group mind set (Tajfel & Turner, 1979):
Social Categorization: in order to identify and understand people, we categorize them.
Those categorizations could be as follow: fat, thin, long, short, white and black, etc. It is possible for an individual to belong to several groups, as one can be fat, long and white at the same time. We can understand things about ourselves and others when we know to what category we/they belong to (Tajfel & Turner, 1979)
Social Identification: in fact, when one belongs to a certain group, he tends to adopt the identity of this group. This means that the norms of that group are common sense and there is a high probability that– as a member of that group – one behaves within those norms. As a result, emotional significance will develop to that identification and as mentioned earlier, the self-esteem of a group member depends on this identification (Tajfel & Turner, 1979)
Social Comparison: after putting ourselves in an in-group, the comparison with another (out-)group will be made. It seems that the in-group tries to show the best side of themselves as opposed to others. Furthermore, the members of an in-group try to emphasize the negative parts of an out-group. It can be argued that this is a form of increasing the self-esteem and explains prejudice and discrimination towards other groups (Tajfel & Turner, 1979).
It can be argued that the social identity theory can be valuable in analysing the responses underneath the posts of Donald Trump. Due to the fact that this theory has a great focus on in particular in-groups and out-groups, this is of importance for a further analysis of the reactions. Xenophobia and the concepts of ‘in-groups’ and ‘out-groups’ are tightly linked to one another. The three processes described above can make it easier understanding how people in ‘in-groups’ and ‘out-groups’ can feel about themselves and others.

The integrated theory of prejudice

The study conducted by Stephan and Stephan (2000) states that in particular perceptions of threats are important for the development of prejudice and fear of the out-group. The main idea of this study is that people in general receive chances which then motivates them to behave or not. According to this theory, first two perceptions of threat can be conducted, that have an impact on later behaviour.
Personal threat: is when someone assumes that his or her identity is threatened and there is a need to protect and secure this identity. It can also be called a ‘self-directed threat’, it often leads to “save face” and has a lot to do with standing up for yourself (Ellemers et. al., 2002; Hewstone, Rubin, & Willis, 2002). Also, a central point in the social identity approach – and thus personal threat – is the impact social groups has on individuals.
Intergroup threat: Scholars Riek et. al (2006) use the following definition: “as a general definition for intergroup threat occurs when one group’s actions, beliefs, or characteristics challenge the goal attainment or well-being of another group”. It is largely equal to personal threat only that it is aimed to a group and not only one person. Social competition is one of the reasons a group can feel threatened. When two groups are fighting for the same resources – tangible or intangible – (Riek, Mania & Gaertner, 2006) they find themselves motivated to defeat the other group for the resources, so it can maintain the identity and ‘win’ the resources. Through this situation, negative thoughts and attitudes concerning the other group maintain (Aberson & Gaffney, 2008).
It has been found that when someone does not feel threatened, he does not feel motivated to protect themselves or his group. Without a treat, an individual will not act or react (Redmond, 2012). Drawing further on the theory of prejudice, four types of fear are important: realistic threats, symbolic threats, intergroup anxiety and negative stereotypes (p. 25).
Realistic threats: the in-group has the feeling that the out-group is a threat for the economic and political power of the in-group, and threating to the physical and material well-being of the in-group. It is not only the actual threat, but also the perceived threat.
Symbolic threats: this involves difference in morals, values, beliefs, standards and attitudes between the in-group and out-group. These symbolic threats mostly arise because an in-group is convinced of the correctness of their own norms and values.
Intergroup anxiety: people feel threatened if they are forced to deal with people from the out-group, because they are afraid for the negative consequences for themselves. Also, they are scared to be confronted with something unknown and they feel uncomfortable with that. It threatens their self-image, because being confronted with something unknown could cause an unpleasant or even shameful situation.
Negative stereotypes: when people of an in-group need to deal with people of an out-group, the stereotypes they have towards the out-group could generate feelings of anxiety. It is therefore the in-group that avoids interaction with the out-group. Thus, stereotypes maintain.
The integrated theory of prejudice can be used in order to subdivide the threatened feelings an individual may have. The categories represent another form of threats or anxiety. Thus, using these four categories during the analysis, it may be easier to understand what kind of triggers there are. Especially triggers for a certain feeling of threat or anxiety and how this affects the relations between in-groups and out-groups.

1. Introduction 
1.1. Political communication
1.2 Social media
1.3 Xenophobia
1.4 Structure
2. Background 
3. Aim and research questions 
4. Research review 
4.1 Digital political communication on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
4.2 Digital communication and xenophobia
5. Theoretical framework 
5.1 Social identity theory
5.2 The integrated theory of prejudice
5.3 Political post and non-political post
6. Methodology 
6.1 Theory of CDA
6.2 Text analysis
6.3 Data and sample
6.4 Data and analysis
6.5 Reliability of the research
6.6 Material
6.7 Limitations of the study
7. Analysis 
7.1 North-Korea peace deal with US
7.2 Merry Christmas greeting
7.3 Analysis and research questions
8. Conclusion and discussio
8.1 Xenophobic comments on Trump’s social media?
8.2 Relation to previous research
8.3 Suggestions for further research
Xenophobic responses on social media: the case of Donald Trump

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