Date of Award

Fall 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Chair

Robert Pauly

Committee Chair School

Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Member 2

Joseph J. St. Marie

Committee Member 2 School

Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Member 3

Robert Press

Committee Member 3 School

Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Member 4

Tom Lansford

Committee Member 4 School

Social Science and Global Studies


In the United States and Canada, refugee resettlement has been the subject of extensive scrutiny and political debate, particularly since the November 2015 terrorist attacks carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) against targets in Paris. While public opinion polls have shown increasingly negative attitudes toward refugees, existing survey questionnaires only provide a limited understanding of what shapes these views. As such, this study focuses on two important factors that influence attitude formation toward refugees, pre-existing levels of knowledge and contact with minority groups. Using a comparative case study approach, this research examines how refugee resettlement influences American and Canadian perceptions of insecurity. While most research on refugee issues is conducted in major gateway cities, the study area for this research focuses on adjacent rural state and province with low immigration rates, now experiencing increased numbers of resettled refugees.

This study uses a mixed-methods approach to collect data in two sequential phases of fieldwork in both Montana and Saskatchewan. A community survey is first conducted in both areas, followed by in-depth qualitative interviews with key informants to discuss and gain multiple perspectives on the survey results findings. Unique features of the survey questionnaire include a brief quiz to measure general knowledge about refugee issues and a section designed to determine levels of intergroup contact. Data is also supplemented through an analysis of documents in both study area locations. This new in-depth research on public perceptions offers a clearer picture of what influences positive and negative attitudes toward refugee resettlement and can help government officials better respond to the concerns of their constituents.