Friday, June 21, 2019

Why Proximity to the Border Matters

Jeronimo Cortina, "From a Distance: Geographic Proximity, Partisanship, and Public Attitudes toward the U.S.–Mexico Border Wall." forthcoming in Political Research Quarterly.


The wall along the U.S.–Mexico border has become one of the most controversial issues in the immigration debate. Although the American public is often aligned with partisan predispositions, often ignored is the role that geographic distance to the border plays in forming attitudes. This paper explores the role of proximity, partisanship, and their interaction as determinants of public attitudes toward the border wall. This paper argues that geographic distance has two effects on public attitudes: as a catalyst for direct contact and as a dynamic filter that shapes how people process information and understand a particular place or policy. Using geocoded survey data from 2017, this paper shows that as the distance to the U.S.–Mexico border increases, Republicans are more likely to support building a wall along the entire border with Mexico due to a lack of direct contact, supplanting direct information with partisan beliefs.
Simply put, being close to the border means you actually understand it.
The basic premise of my argument is that distance interacts with partisan perceptions and attitudes toward the border wall. Republicans who live relatively close to the wall understand and experience the “here and now” of the border through direct contact and in terms of specific and unique features that can be experienced only by being in close proximity to it, whereas Republicans far away from the wall are perceptively separated from it and thus understand it in terms of decontextualized, general, and prototypical characteristics (Henderson et al. 2006) that align with both their own partisan beliefs (Bartels 2002) and the nationalized partisan discourse on immigration (Hopkins 2018). The results of this paper contribute to the emerging literature focusing on the effects of national versus local politics and the impacts of geography on political behavior (Enos 2017; Hopkins 2018).
When you are not close to the border, then you do not grasp the complexities of it. Instead, you are more likely to just claim you can slap a wall up there, increase border patrol, and you're all good.

I would add that some lawmakers visit the border and when there only a short time reinforce false views. A short visit can give them greater confidence in false views because of "I've been there and I've seen it with my own eyes" logic.

A final thought is that sometimes you live by the border and you're still stone cold crazy.

h/t Mike Allison 


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