Is Donald Trump a trendsetter for Canadians? The effect of Trump and national identity on support for immigration

Thesis type
(Research Project) M.A.
Date created
Author: Nuss, Steven
Recent Canadian research highlights a tension. President Trump may be responsible for a potential weakening of the social norms surrounding Canadian identity. Trump's effect, however, is mitigated when Canadian identity is salient. Given that research shows that Canadians have routinely defined themselves as welcoming of immigrants and multicultural, why Trump has this influence, and the further impact of either Trump himself or Canadian identity on reported support for immigration during the Trump presidency are both largely unknown. The influence of Canadian identity may due to its role as a social identity, and its dominant association with social norms where Canadians welcome immigrants and support multiculturalism. Trump's influence may be a result of the fact that Canadians see the President as a trendsetter. Existing research and media reports suggest good reasons for Canadians to see Trump as a trendsetter and a source of normative change. Canadians – who increasingly favour less immigrants – see President Trump, who has routinely violated liberal democratic norms on immigration and race; and political elites serve as important sources of information for citizens. For Canadians, either source of normative information – Canadian identity or President Trump – may also be conditioned by personal political attitudes. Using a survey experiment and a national online convenience sample from Qualtrics, this study shows that anglophone Canadians appear to view the President as a trendsetter, but this is not conditioned by prior attitudes towards immigration. Anglophone Canadians also vastly underestimate that their fellow citizens believe Canadian identity is defined as welcoming of immigrants and supportive of multiculturalism. Using a scenario that encourages online discussion with manufactured Facebook comments, priming Canadian identity which reinforces pro-immigrant attitudes increases the supportiveness of a respondent's comment towards immigrants when given a news article headline about immigration, compared to those who do not receive Facebook comments. Priming respondents with comments that utilize President Trump's anti-immigrant language, however, does not lead to a change in the reported support towards immigrants, nor are the effects of either intervention conditional on prior attitudes towards immigration. The results have bearing on the understanding of Trump's influence in Canada, and on the role and conception of Canadian identity for anglophone Canadians.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Pickup, Mark
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