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Keywords:

  • immigration;
  • threat;
  • acculturation;
  • language

In the present article, we extend the notion of cultural threat posed by immigrants beyond its current conceptualization as symbolic, collective-level threats to American culture and identity. Instead, we argue that routine encounters with non-English-speaking immigrants cause many individuals to feel threatened because of real barriers to interpersonal communication and exchange. We draw upon survey and experimental data to demonstrate that local contact with immigrants who speak little to no English, as well as incidental exposure to the Spanish language, heighten feelings of cultural threat, which increases anti-immigrant sentiment and policy preferences.