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Political Discourse and Public Attitudes toward Syrian Refugees in Turkey

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Sustaining positive attitudes toward refugees is a priority as refugee crises surge worldwide. This study draws on eighty-five in-depth interviews with citizens in four provinces across Turkey. We identified prominent frames from Turkish political discourse and asked individuals to recount their self-narratives of attitude formation about Syrian refugees. We find that most respondents’ narratives included multiple frames, confirming that attitudes are often products of contradictory factors. Furthermore, humanitarianism and shared religion, frames thought to support positive attitudes, did not have such straightforward associations here. Humanitarianism was a positive force early, but had limits as compassion fatigue set in, and respondents described polarizing differences in religious practices rather than shared religion. Our work highlights the importance of examining attitude formation in non-Western settings for understanding views about and supporting societal inclusion of refugees.
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Keywords: Middle East; Turkey; attitudes; immigration; migrants; refugees

Appeared or available online: August 19, 2021

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