As conflicts flare around the world, images of refugees have become a familiar presence in Western media. Drawing on existing accounts of visual influence, this analysis explores how (un)sympathetic refugee portrayals in news accounts affect distant viewers’ compassion responses and refugee policy attitudes. The study reports the results of three survey experiments, in Sweden, the United States, and the UK, involving 25 unique images and over 4,500 combined respondents. Building on previous work on Moral Foundations Theory, we find the manifest vulnerability of depicted refugees to be an important influence on how visual portrayals evoke sympathy and impact conservatives’ (but not liberals’) compassion responses. Once activated, compassion is found to mediate the effect of refugee portrayals on right-wing support for refugee aid.