Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Political Science

First Advisor

Jennifer Wolak


In the context of undocumented immigration, dehumanization and humanization have potential to provide insight to the long sought-after question of what impacts public attitudes toward undocumented immigrants. The current study assessed whether dehumanizing and humanizing images and rhetoric impact political tolerance, prejudice, perceived threat, and immigration policy preferences. I hypothesized that dehumanization would predict less political tolerance for undocumented immigrants, support for more restrictive immigration policy, and a more negative view of undocumented immigrants overall, while humanization would do the opposite. It is important to investigate the role of both humanizing and dehumanizing rhetoric on attitudes about immigration policy to get a more holistic view of the effects of rhetoric and images. Moreover, investigating humanizing rhetoric and images provides somewhat of an introduction to potential moderating mechanisms on the effects of dehumanization. An online survey experiment was conducted to test the hypotheses. OLS regression models and a logit model found that those exposed to the dehumanization condition had significantly less political tolerance and more prejudice than those in both the control group and the humanization group. These findings provide interesting insights as to the nature of dehumanization and humanization in a political context.