How can people be convinced that immigration is actually not a threat? Christina Boswell and James Hampshire explain that, in shaping public beliefs, narratives and images are more important than statistics. So, politicians who want to challenge the current demonisation of foreigners must construct narratives about immigration and its place in our society which draw on existing public philosophies of openness and inclusion.
New proposals on how to regulate immigration after Brexit are coming thick and fast. But there’s a lot of muddled thinking from the main political parties, especially regarding how to respond to anti-immigrant sentiment amongst sections of the public.
Politicians and commentators often fall into one of two traps. Either they take anti-immigrant sentiment as a given – a legitimate democratic preference, which needs to be taken at face value and respected. On this view, the role of mainstream political parties is to allay concerns through introducing more stringent controls and tougher integration measures.
Alternatively, politicians and pundits understand anti-immigrant sentiment as a problem of ignorance. On this account, large sections of the public hold inaccurate beliefs about the scale and impacts of immigration, and the answer is to better educate people, supply them with robust evidence and facts in order to bust the myths about immigration, and encourage a more enlightened approach.