Anti-immigration sentiment and public opinion on human trafficking

Ieke de Vries*, Connor Nickerson, Amy Farrell, Dana E. Wittmer-Wolfe, Vanessa Bouché

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Prior research shows that anti-immigration sentiment affects public opinion about criminal justice problems and solutions. However, we know little about how these sentiments affect public opinion about human trafficking. This paper attempts to fill this gap by examining the role of anti-immigration sentiment in shaping public support for anti-trafficking efforts in the United States. Specifically, this research examines the effect of anti-immigration sentiment on the public’s understanding about vulnerabilities for human trafficking among migrant populations and corresponding support for policies directed at the protection of migrant trafficked persons. This is particularly important because public policies that safeguard migrant trafficked persons have been among the most difficult to pass despite strong support for the governmental prioritization of anti-trafficking efforts overall. Utilizing public opinion data from an original, nationally representative survey experiment of 2000 Americans, this study finds that anti-immigration sentiment (1) is associated with greater recognition of the vulnerability of immigrants to human trafficking victimization; (2) does not impact public support for a general governmental prioritization of human trafficking policies; yet (3) creates less public support for victim services for non-citizen trafficked persons; and (4) stems from differences in political views impacting support for services for immigrant victims. These findings contribute to an understanding of the role of anti-immigration sentiment in public opinion about crime and have implications for policies aimed at improving the identification of and outcomes for migrant trafficked persons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-143
Number of pages19
JournalCrime, Law and Social Change
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes


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