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Public Discourse on Immigration in 2010

Public Discourse on Immigration in 2010

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Published by opportunityagenda
Immigration in the Public Discourse in 2010 is the fourth public discourse analysis we have completed on the subject of immigrants and immigration reform and illustrates how the discourse has continued to evolve.
Immigration in the Public Discourse in 2010 is the fourth public discourse analysis we have completed on the subject of immigrants and immigration reform and illustrates how the discourse has continued to evolve.

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Published by: opportunityagenda on May 31, 2011
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When we looked at YouTube in 2009, pro-immigration videos had fnally begun to outnumber those
from the anti-immigrant ones. This trend continued through the summer of 2010. Videos presenting an
anti-immigration viewpoint were consistently outnumbered not only by pro-immigration videos, but by
ideologically neutral videos as well. This trend was present across all search terms used in this scan.

Methodology

When searching YouTube, the default option is to search by relevance. In keeping with our attempts
to mimic what most users would experience in their day-to-day searching, this remained our
procedure for this scan. Each week, the frst page of search results was analyzed for four search terms:
“immigration,” “Dream Act,”23

“comprehensive immigration reform,” and “undocumented.”24

This

means that the traffc and comments for many of the videos were analyzed all six weeks because they
continued to come up in our search, whereas some were analyzed only once.

There is one aspect of this methodology that must be singled out as potentially unreliable: the
occasional diffculty of assigning a “pro,” “anti,” or “neutral” categorization to each video. While the
viewpoint of most videos is immediately clear, we did encounter a few problem cases. A classic example
of this is one of the most consistently popular search results for “immigration”: “Bill O’Reilly Explodes
Over Illegal Immigration.”25

The video features an episode of The O’Reilly Factor in which the host
launches into a typical anti-immigration rant. However, the uploader of the video provided it with a
description mocking O’Reilly and tagged the video with terms such as “crackpot” and “insanity.” We
chose to categorize edge cases such as this one according to the uploader’s intent, and thus considered
this video to be pro-immigration despite the anti-immigration bent of its raw content alone.

Current playing feld

As in 2009, pro-immigration videos continued to outnumber both anti-immigration videos and those
with a neutral point of view in 2010. Approximately 43 percent of videos found by searching for
“immigration” could be classifed as pro-immigration, compared to 31 percent that were neutral or
ambiguous and 26 percent that were anti-immigration. For the other three search terms, the disparity
was even greater:

Table 4. ImmIgraTIon sTands expressed In youTube vIdeos

Search Term

% Pro

% Neutral% Anti

Immigration

43

31

26

Dream Act

100

0

0

Comprehensive Immigration Reform

65

25

10

Undocumented

50

25

25

Source: Public Discourse on Immigration in 2010, The Opportunity Agenda, March 2011.

23

For “Dream Act,” only the frst half of the frst page of search results was analyzed, as the view counts dropped off sharply
afterwards. Additionally, the results consisted almost entirely of promotional videos for the act, several of which were duplicate copies
of the same video.
24

For obvious reasons, videos unrelated to immigration—like a popular video depicting a Korg synthesizer’s “undocumented”

features—were ignored.
25

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7Nt8MQaKko.

The Opportunity Agenda

57

However, a closer look at the data reveals a slightly more mixed picture. For “immigration,” likely the
most popular immigration-related search term, the top four search results were occupied by a rotating
selection of the same fve videos almost every single week.26

These fve videos had more views and
comments than the other results—and ideologically, they were split almost evenly: two pro, two anti,
and one neutral. (It should be noted that one of these videos, “Immigration Gumballs,”27

was actually

against all immigration into the United States, not just undocumented immigration; it did not follow
the typical anti-immigrant narrative. Instead of accusing immigrants of taking jobs or breaking laws, it
presented immigration as a population-control problem.)

Perhaps the most interesting trend of the 2010 scan was the relative stability of the search results
over time. In 2009, many videos would appear in the results one week and then be absent the next.
This trend was almost completely absent in 2010, where nearly 40 percent of the videos found under
the “immigration” search appeared in the frst page of results for all six weeks—and that statistic is
heavily weighted down by the fnal, SB 1070 lawsuit-dominated week. More than two-thirds of the
“immigration” videos appeared during the frst fve weeks of the scan, often in more or less the same
order—and the results for “immigration” were, on average, less stable than the results for the other
three search terms.

The content of the videos across all viewpoints varied both in effcacy and in messaging strategy. Anti-
immigrant videos ran the gamut from animated, historical cartoons to news clips of traditional anti-
immigration fgures, including pundits Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs. Some offered a lucid, intellectually
framed presentation of anti-immigration rhetoric, while others were nothing more than homemade
rants. For example, “Cost of Illegal Immigration,”28

a Dobbs report that consistently appeared in
the top four, accused illegal immigrations of “undercutting wages and jobs . . . for Americans” and
“crowding classrooms, hospitals, and prisons.” Meanwhile, in “Glenn Beck’s History of Illegal
Immigration,”29

an animated version of Beck criticized previous attempts at immigration reform—
including Ronald Reagan’s 1986 plan—as “amnesty.”

Pro-immigration videos varied greatly. Some contained a values message, while others centered on the
practical considerations of proposed anti-immigration laws. Pro-immigration were more comedic, on
average, than others; SuperNews’ “The Immigration Debate,”30

a top result for several weeks, parodied
the current debate by casting the Mayfower arrivals as undocumented immigrants; another video,
“How to Solve Illegal Immigration,”31

featured a serious, intellectual discussion of the issue—by two

cartoon cats.

Perhaps due to the debate over Arizona’s SB 1070 in the summer of 2010, pro-immigration videos
tended more towards the reactive than the proactive, pushing back against proposed anti-immigration
policies as opposed to presenting solutions. (Search results for “Dream Act” and “comprehensive
immigration reform” did not follow this pattern, but in those cases the phrasing of the search term
itself undoubtedly biased the results.) Interestingly, videos directly related to SB 1070 did not appear
in the top results at all until two weeks after the July 6th announcement of the federal government’s
lawsuit against the bill. When they did appear, they were evenly split between being pro-SB 1070, anti-,
and neutral.

The nature of the videos seemed to be changing from previous years. Increasingly, people appeared

26

They were displaced only in the fnal week of the scan, when breaking news reports on the federal government’s lawsuit
against Arizona’s SB 1070 dominated the results.
27

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7WJeqxuOfQ.

28

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cY6t2ckpb5g.

29

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAaBgMmSrJo.

30

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhEl6HdfqWM.

31

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nN1kp1ggWyM.

58

The Opportunity Agenda

to be turning to YouTube to fnd clips of TV news reports, especially around the time of a breaking
news story like the SB 1070 lawsuit. Many of the top search results—in some weeks, as many as half—
were clips from TV news. A number of Al Jazeera reports also popped up, suggesting that viewers
were seeking news reports they may not normally be able to receive on their television. Another
popular trend was clips of celebrities commenting on the issue; over the course of this scan, videos of
Shakira, M.I.A., and the Phoenix Suns, among others, made their way into the top results. Animated
videos were also surprisingly popular; whether this is indicative of a larger trend or just coincidental
is diffcult to tell. The top animated videos (“The Immigration Debate,” “How to Solve Illegal
Immigration,” and “Glenn Beck’s History of Illegal Immigration”) were not connected in any obvious
thematic way other than their basic topic and that they were all animated.

Although pro-immigration videos outnumbered anti-immigration videos in this scan, the reverse was
true within the comments. Hateful, anti-immigrant rhetoric dominated the comments on videos of
all viewpoints: the only videos without venomous comments were those that lacked comments at
all. However, this might represents the overall tendency for confrontational comments on YouTube
generally, not a prevalence of actual anti-immigrant feeling. YouTube is widely regarded as having—for
unclear reasons—among the most antagonistic and distasteful comments. Will Coley, an immigration
reform activist who specializes in new media, describes YouTube comments largely as “background
noise.” A sample of some of the comments from “The Immigration Debate” supports this: badvagirl
says “mexicans just drop their litters and let whites take care of them,” while “mastior” attributes the
problem of illegal immigration to the Illuminati.32

Conclusion

The YouTube playing feld is already tilted towards pro-immigration videos; prominently placing new
videos in the search results may present challenges, given the relative stability of most results pages.
Because of this, advocates should consider using alternative forms of social media such as blogs and
Twitter to promote their YouTube videos, instead of relying solely on the site’s search feature.

Recommendations

XUse humor, animation, and other nontraditional techniques to create your videos.
XUse other forms of social media to promote your YouTube videos.
XConsider turning off comments.
XKeep videos short and to the point.
XIf a cause or issue gets positive news coverage, see if that coverage has been uploaded to
YouTube and, if so, consider spreading it around. When considering uploading footage yourself,
remember that it is a violation of copyright law, even though news networks have not appeared
to object such uploading to date.

32

YouTube does not provide a way to link to a specifc comment, but these comments can be found on this page: http://www.
youtube.com/comment_servlet?all_comments=1&v=YhEl6HdfqWM.

The Opportunity Agenda

59

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