From a Distance: Geographic Proximity, Partisanship, and Public Attitudes toward the U.S.–Mexico Border Wall

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Abstract

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.

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Cortina, J. (2020). From a Distance: Geographic Proximity, Partisanship, and Public Attitudes toward the U.S.–Mexico Border Wall. Political Research Quarterly, 73(3), 740–754. https://doi.org/10.1177/1065912919854135

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