How Reel Middle Easterners’ Portrayals Cultivate Stereotypical Beliefs and Policy Support

Ian Hawkins, Stewart M. Coles, Muniba Saleem, Jessica D. Moorman, Haleemah Aqel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is limited empirical research examining cultivation theory’s proposition that first-order estimates influence second-order attitudes. In two studies, we examine how Middle Easterners are portrayed on entertainment television and how these portrayals cultivate stereotypical beliefs and policy support. A content analysis in Study 1 finds that nearly half of Middle Eastern characters on entertainment television are portrayed as supporting terrorism. A survey in Study 2 finds that watching television programs averaging two or more Middle Eastern terrorist characters per episode is associated with individuals’ estimations that a higher percentage of Middle Easterners are associated with terrorism in the real world. This first-order cultivation effect was found to be a mediating mechanism between entertainment media exposure and support for restrictive immigration and naturalization policies. We discuss the importance of examining entertainment television representations of racial/ethnic minorities and their implications for attitudes and policy support relevant to the depicted groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalMass Communication and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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