Butterfly Lab Research

Most Americans want a better immigration system that allows immigrants to belong and thrive. Yet, many find it difficult to imagine an America in which this may be able to happen. This is the overall finding of the research we conducted in 2021 and 2022.

Our research, conducted in two phases, had two specific goals:

  • To understand narrative opportunities to build public support and investment in a pro-immigrant future.
  • To evaluate the impact of Butterfly Lab and Chrysalis Lab cohort narratives and projects.

Phase 1 Findings: Butterfly Lab Cohort Prototypes

In Phase 1, we worked with Harmony Labs to better understand how audiences reacted to the deep narratives advanced by cohort members. Specifically, the research found:

  • Nearly everyone believes immigrants deserve to belong and thrive.
  • Many people find it difficult to imagine an America in which this may be true.
  • Our primary audiences respond well to all narratives the cohort members tried, including narratives that focus on shared humanity, compassion, dignity, and respect.
  • Those audiences who are not yet aligned with the pro-immigrant movement do not respond well to the aforementioned narratives. They do, however, respond well to narratives of striving, responsibility, and liberty.
  • Our narratives need to make sense of the past and present, and point toward immigration futures that are compelling to all.

Read more about our research with Harmony Labs.

Phase 2 Findings: The Belonging Study

We know that, as a movement, we need to build a sustainable and enduring pro-immigrant majority. In order to do this, we must activate more Americans’ belief that immigrants deserve to belong and thrive in this country, move them to imagine that such a world is possible, and engage them to act to build that world.

With that goal in mind, we partnered with The Opportunity Agenda to commission Gretchen Barton of the Worthy Strategy Group to explore the underlying beliefs and drivers that shape attitudes around immigration and what is needed for audiences to embrace a pro-immigrant future.

We discovered there is a broad hunger for a culture that is abundant and free and that embraces immigrants in the United States. Standing in our way – and felt across the ideological spectrum – are narratives that promote fears of scarcity, chaos, and a lack of safety, causing many Americans to be traumatized and scared, to feel devalued and unheard, and to turn towards anxiety-driven scarcity mindsets.

Our research revealed important clues for what can move audiences away from fear and toward pro-immigrant values and beliefs. We found:

  • People across all audience segments dream of a better future
  • Most Americans want a better immigration system
  • Fear often outweighs audiences’ pro-immigrant values
  • An abundance mindset buttressed by perceptions of safety and order are necessary for audiences to embrace a pro-immigrant future
  • Freedom and Mutuality were the two themes that characterized an audiences’ abundance lens on immigration
  • Clear and fair structures and rules provide the sense of safety and order that audiences need to move past their anxieties
  • Reframing safety to emphasize mutuality, strong communities, and looking out for each other can help further calm audiences’ fears around safety

To learn more:

Later in 2022, we will conduct additional research to expand on what we learned from this study and to measure the impact of our Chrysalis Lab grantee projects. Stay tuned for updates.