Ever since Donald Trump handed down his executive order temporarily halting all immigration from seven majority-Muslim nations for three months and barring refugees from Syria indefinitely, the social-media outpouring from liberals has focused, understandably, on how unfair the policy is to Muslims.
Yes, this is a refugee family in handcuffs, in America, for being muslim. That little girl? Handcuffed.— Amir (@amiraminiMD) January 31, 2017
History will judge us very harshly. pic.twitter.com/KIR50K64ZO
Those who didn’t decry the injustice of it all instead highlighted how important it is to protect refugees from harm (myself included.) They point out that Anne Frank’s family tried in vain to secure asylum in the U.S. in the 1940s. “Anne Frank today is a Syrian girl,” The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof wrote.
Those are poignant, strong arguments against the policy. But according to one fascinating line of psychological research, they’re not likely to work on conservatives.
Rather than emphasizing concern over the harm that might come to refugees, says Matt Feinberg, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, to truly persuade Trump supporters on the matter it would have been be better to go with something like this:
“These refugees and immigrants are just like our family members who came to America in years past to seek a better life. All our ancestors wanted was to live the American dream, and that’s why today’s immigrants and refugees have chosen to come to America, so they too can live that same American dream that brought our families here. That dream is what our nation was founded on, it is what brought our grandparents and great-grandparents to this great land, and it is the great success story that these immigrants want to be a part of.”
It’s a message high on patriotism and loyalty—two “moral frames” that research shows are more important to conservatives than are traditionally more liberal values, like reciprocity and caring.