Introduction the attitude at the moment of action

Introduction

Increasing
conflict in countries, such as Syria, has caused a surge of individuals to flee
and seek asylum in safer communities. This migration issue has received a lot
of attention from governments and media, sparking debate on how to effectively
deal with this humanitarian crisis. Research has suggested that, with the
increase in asylum seekers, individual’s attitudes and prejudice have become
more negative and hostile. A large body of literature has been
focussed on attitudes towards asylum seekers, who are individuals requesting
refuge and a legal refugee status in a host nation (Lusher et al., 2007). An
attitude is an individual’s evaluation towards a particular entity, object or
group (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). Prejudice is an unjustified, usually
negative, attitude towards an individual, based on their social group
membership. The majority of the literature refers to explicit
attitudes towards asylum seekers. However, individuals will also hold implicit
attitudes towards asylum seekers, which are present without full awareness.
Implicit attitudes are automatic evaluations towards an object, in this case
asylum seekers, activated by actual or symbolic presence of the object. The
individuals are not conscious, aware or in control of the attitude at the
moment of action (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995). Implicit and explicit
attitudes may not be consistent with one another, as research suggests that
they rely on different underlying processes and reasoning (Rydell et al.,
2006).

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This
research paper aims to investigate the relationship between social class and
attitudes towards asylum seekers. It aims to examine the prevalence of explicit
and implicit attitudes, towards asylum seekers, of working and middle to upper
class individuals and determine if either group presents more explicit or more
implicit attitudes. Social class refers to an individual’s income, education,
occupation, and access to material goods. Socioeconomic Status (SES) is often
used to describe an individual’s social position and status. In the current
study, social class will be defined in terms of participant’s income, education
attainment, and occupation.

Research
has shown that lower class individuals hold more negative attitudes and
prejudice towards other minority groups. Scheepers, Gijsberts & Coenders
(2002) found a significant negative correlation between income and endorsing
ethnic exclusionism. Ethnic exclusionism indicates negative attitudes towards
ethnic minorities. Dustmann & Preston (2001) found that individuals who
received formal education beyond the age of 18 held significantly more
favourable attitudes towards minorities. However, they found little evidence to
suggest that manual employment, retirement or unemployment influences
attitudes.

Many
studies have consistently observed this negative correlation between an
individual’s formal educational attainment, and their prejudice against ethnic
minorities. Those will low levels of education tend to hold more negative
attitudes towards ethnic minorities compared to those with higher educational
attainment. Educational attainment is a common indicator of social class, with
lower levels of education indicating lower social classes (Beattie, Agahi &
Spencer, 1982). Baron & Banaji (2006) investigated implicit and explicit
attitudes towards Black individuals, of white American 6-year-olds,
10-year-olds and adults. They found that explicit attitudes became less biased
in older children and almost completely disappeared in adulthood. However,
implicit attitudes remained stable over each age group, constantly favouring
the in-group. This demonstrates asymmetry in implicit and explicit attitudes,
showing that they do not always align with each other. It also suggests that
educational attainment may have an influence on explicit attitudes, but not
implicit, as between the age of 6 and adulthood, individuals are likely to
complete many years of formal education. This previous research demonstrates a
general trend between measures of social class and prejudice towards ethnic
minorities. The current study aims to focus on a particular minority group;
asylum seekers.

A
vast amount of research regarding attitudes towards asylum seekers has taken
place in Australia following the Tampa incident, where 438 Afghan asylum
seekers, rescued from a Norwegian cargo ship, were refused entrance into Australian
waters (Every & Augoustinos, 2007). Since this event
research has shown that attitudes of Australian people towards asylum seekers
have become increasingly negative and less welcoming (Betts, 2001). Some, but
limited, research has investigated socio-economic status and characteristics in
relation to explicit attitudes and prejudice of Australian individuals. Mckay,
Thomas & Kneebone (2012) examined sociodemographic characteristics in
explicit attitudes towards asylum seekers in Australia. They found that,
individuals who were younger and more educated held more positive views of
asylum seekers. Individuals who self-identified as lower and middle class were
more likely to express caution towards asylum seekers and agreed with
suggestions that they should be held in detention during security checks. In
addition, they found that some respondents, who were predominantly students,
with high education and from high socio-economic areas, challenged views that
asylum seekers were directly linked to Islam, violence and terrorism.

Other
research has observed a positive correlation between years of education and
attitudes on immigration (Kehrberg, 2007). This may be due to economic
security. Those who are more educated may feel an economic advantage over asylum
seekers and not feel threatened by their arrival. This is also true for income.
Kehrberg (2007) proposed that as income increases, attitudes towards asylum
seekers and immigrants improves, due to economic security and reduced economic
threat. Theoretically, you may expect individuals who are likely to be in
direct competition with those granted asylum, for jobs and housing, to hold
more negative attitudes. These individuals are likely to be of the lower
classes. This is referred to as the Ethnic Competition Theory. Scheepers and
colleagues (2002) found evidence to support this theory, in relation to
attitudes towards other minority groups. Those who were similar to the ethnic
out-group, in terms of income, education and social class, were more inclined to
exclude ethnic minorities. The Ethnic Competition Theory may explain why
previous evidence has suggested that individuals of lower socio-economic
classes hold more negative attitudes towards asylum seekers. Asylum seekers
entering Britain will increase competition for jobs, housing and welfare
benefits. This will influence those who would be in direct competition to be
more prejudice and antagonistic towards immigrants and asylum seekers.

The
European refugee crisis began in 2015, when a substantial number of individuals
arrived in the European Union. Most of these asylum seekers and refugees came
from Muslim countries, such as Syria and Iraq (Portal, 2017). Most individuals
were attempting to seek asylum in safer host nations to flee persecution from
their home nation (Lischer, 2015). In addition, many have targeted Britain
because of job opportunities and welfare support. With the recent increase in
individuals seeking asylum in Britain, it is highly relevant to examine
attitudes of British people in relation to asylum seekers. Identifying
socio-economic predictors of implicit and explicit negative attitudes and
prejudice will be useful for intervention development to improve attitudes,
and, in turn, prevent discrimination. This research aims to examine a novel
idea, implicit attitudes towards asylum seekers and the relationship with
social class.

Two
hypotheses have been developed based on previous literature reviewed.
Hypothesis one states that there will be a significant correlation between
social class and explicit attitudes towards asylum seekers. Individuals of
higher classes, defined by education, income, and occupation, will hold more
favourable and positive attitudes towards asylum seekers. Due to the lack of
previous research, and the experimental and novel nature of implicit attitudes
and social class, the second hypothesis is non-directional. It states that
there will be a relationship between social class and implicit attitudes
towards asylum seekers, but in what direction is to be determined. It predicts
that implicit attitudes will be related, but distinct from explicit attitudes.

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