Taylor's FSLM Journals
Moral Panics and Foreign Nationals: Perceived Attitude and Intentions

@ SEARCH Journal of Media and Communication Research

Online ISSN: 2672-7080

*Thinavan Periyayya & Kumutham Krishnan


This paper investigated moral panics on activities of African nationals as reported in three local dailies from the period 2007 to 2010. Cohen (1972) defines moral panics as “a condition, episode, individual or groups of persons who emerge to become defined as a threat to societal values and interest.” Content analysis was used to examine the news articles against Goode and Ben Yehuda’s (1994) five criterion moral panics model to analyse the construction of moral panics in the news articles on the activities of African nationals. Content analysis of 124 news reports indicated that the three newspapers succeeded in constructing moral panics pertaining to the activities of African nationals. The analysis also revealed that the media-fuelled moral panics specifically focused on African students. Miller and Reilly (1994) argued that media content alone cannot determine the emergence or disappearance of moral panics. In tandem with this argument, this study also explored the media influence on attitude and behavioural intentions of the local population based on the Theory of Planned Behaviour. The media influence on attitudes and intentions is often unexplored but crucial in confirming the existence of moral panics. A survey of 185 respondents revealed that the panic in the moral panics was not obvious. The respondents had a positive attitude towards African students. Intention to avoid befriending them was also not obvious. All the three constructs of the Theory of Planned Behaviour were predictive of behavioural intentions to befriend African students. Based on both findings, it can be concluded that the moral panics phenomenon constructed by the print media did not translate into actual panic behaviour among the surveyed respondents.

Keywords: Behavioural intention, content analysis, moral panics, perceived attitude