Semuhi Sinanoglu

Out of sight, out of mind: The impact of lockdown measures on sentiment towards refugees

with Amir Abdul Reda & Amine Mohamed Aboussalah, under review. Originally prepared for the World Bank Policy Research Working Paper Series 2021.

You may find an earlier draft on SSRN.

Abstract

How did COVID-19 related movement restrictions impact sentiment towards refugees? Existing theories offer conflicting answers. On the one hand, contact theories and rally-around-the-flag theories suggest that movement restrictions might improve sentiment toward refugees as a function of reduced casual interactions with them or inter-group solidarity. On the other hand, integrated threat theories suggest refugees may be perceived as a security threat and scapegoated for these movement restrictions in the first place. To gauge the effect of movement restrictions, we investigate the effect of physical isolation on sentiments towards refugees in Turkey by using a novel dataset we designed. We use Google Mobility Reports’ measurements of movement and our measures of sentiments towards refugees using refugee-related tweets from Turkey. Descriptive analysis shows that xenophobic sentiment decreased somewhat during the pandemic. Our study shows that different types of reduced mobility correlate with increased sympathy toward refugees: the more people stay at home, the more positive sentiment toward refugees they exhibit on Twitter. Our findings imply that when refugees are out of sight, they are also out of mind.