When Facts Don’t Matter: How to Communicate More Effectively about Immigration’s Costs and Benefits

Report Author: 
Natalia Banulescu-Bogdan
Date of Publication: 
November, 2018

In When Facts Don’t Matter: How to Communicate More Effectively about Immigration’s Costs and Benefits, the author provides a thorough overview of the psychological and political underpinnings of the process of evaluating and absorbing information and suggests alternate strategies for giving people information about immigration. The human mind is predisposed to accept information that already comports with our beliefs, and rejects information that does not fit those beliefs. This phenomenon is exaggerated when opposing positions in a policy debate are highly polarized, as they are in the immigration debate. The task of persuading people with facts is made more difficult in a media environment where there are countless unvetted sources of information (for example, on the web) making it easier for people to cherry-pick facts supporting their beliefs, and where there are deliberate campaigns to spread misinformation (“fake news”). Advocates and researchers can make matters worse by repeating false information in their effort to dispel myths. (For example, saying that immigrants are not more prone to commit crimes helps to reinforce the myth by dwelling on the supposed connection between immigration and crime.) Among other recommendations, the author suggests that information about immigration is more likely to be absorbed if it makes an emotional appeal or aligns with the audience’s personal experiences. Policy-makers and advocates rely too heavily on cost/benefit analyses, which may contradict personal experience or belief. If nothing else, the author reminds us that getting back to a sensible policy debate on immigration, and enacting needed reforms, will be very challenging in these politically polarized times. (Maurice Belanger, Maurice Belanger Consulting)

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Citation: 

Banulescu-Bogdan, N. (2018). When Facts Don’t Matter: How to Communicate More Effectively about Immigration’s Costs and Benefits. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved from https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/when-facts-dont-matter-immigration

Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute
Topics: 
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