Cesar Vargas Nuñez

Department of Political Science

The Effects of Perspective-Taking on Attitudes towards Undocumented Immigrants and Access to Healthcare

Everyone is at risk of becoming sick, but not everyone has equal access to healthcare. Despite recent efforts, undocumented immigrants in the US remain barred from accessing government healthcare programs. The exclusion from continuous medical care has exacerbated the impact of COVID-19 among immigrant communities. Expanding welfare access to undocumented immigrants, however, remains a highly contentious issue among policymakers and the public. Efforts to expand healthcare access have received resistance from the public and policymakers alike. But can asking individuals to imagine themselves in the shoes of an undocumented immigrant suffering symptoms from a serious disease, unable to get medical care because of their status, yield increased support for healthcare expansion? I use a set of survey experiments to answer this question. The results show that respondents who took the perspective-taking exercise showed a substantial increase in support for providing undocumented immigrants with access to government healthcare programs. The effects were of equal force across partisans. This project also extends the perspective-taking literature by exploring the impact of lived experience. Contrary to expectations, respondents that contracted COVID-19 were unmoved by the perspective-taking treatment. This result, however, is not a failure of the treatment. Rather, respondents with lived experience were substantially more supportive of undocumented immigrant’s access to healthcare at baseline. Altogether, the results of this project suggest those who contracted COVID-19 are already more supportive of healthcare expansion for undocumented immigrants, while perspective-taking can increase support among the rest.