Syrian Refugees and Americans: Perceptions, Attitudes and Insights

Ismail Hakki Yigit 1, Andrew Tatch 1

AM J QUALITATIVE RES, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp. 13-31

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In recent years, the United States (US) has seen an influx of refugees from the Syrian Crisis, highlighted by a public declaration from then President Obama that 10,000 refugees would be admitted. National surveys suggested that roughly half of US citizens were uncomfortable with this decision. This study serves as an extension of these previous surveys by further elucidating the underlying causes of this discomfort. As such, this study explores Americans’ perceptions of Syrian refugee resettlement as well as Syrians’ perceptions of America using face to face interviews and content analysis. Analyses revealed conflicting meanings of immigration for both Syrians and Americans as well as co-occurring compassion and fear directed towards Syrian refugees. In addition, Syrian refugees perceived their American resettlement as an opportunity for engagement with society and to contribute socially and economically, while also noting their marginalization and stigmatization in their transitional countries. Americans expressed a lack of understanding of the legal status of Syrian refugees, often equating them with undocumented and illegal migrants. Americans held oppositional attitudes towards Syrian refugees, expressing both empathy towards and fear of terrorism. This study extends the literature on immigration through a more dynamic exploration of attitudes of both refugees and citizens in America, capitalizing on the distinct advantages of qualitative approaches.

Keywords: Syrian refugees, qualitative study, perceptions of Americans, terrorism