Being positive helps change attitudes

Tue 21 Feb 2017

Fears around immigration are not new and have been exacerbated by populist waves and the migrant crisis. India too is feeling the heat. In this context, a discussion paper titled ‘Countering Public Opposition to Immigration: The Impact of Information Campaigns’ from Europe’s Centre for Economic Policy Research is illuminating.

Giovanni Facchini, Yotam Margalit and Hiroyuki Nakata conducted a social experiment in Japan on the effect of exposure to positive information about immigration on attitudes towards immigrants. Japan was chosen for its rapidly ageing population, low birth rate, severe labour shortages in some sectors, and low levels of immigration due to public opposition. Subjects in the study were told that they were assessing texts as potential school curricular options (knowing the objective of the exercise could distort their responses).

All 9,000 participants were given a text on a Japanese painter, a subject unrelated to migration. The control group, comprising some of the 9,000 people, was given a second text, with information on Pluto, a topic again unrelated to migration. The remaining individuals, or the treatment group, were provided with one of several texts that contained a discussion of a demographic problem in Japan and how immigration could help alleviate it.

After exposure to the questions, respondents were asked three questions: whether they’d accept more immigrants, about temporary migration (a visa question), and on whether they would sign a petition for increasing the number of immigrants. In order to test the longevity of the informational effects, some respondents were asked these questions immediately and others after a gap of 10-12 days.

Respondents who were from groups exposed to positive information showed a 43-72% greater likelihood of supporting immigration and an 18-24% higher likelihood of supporting some form of temporary migration compared to their control group peers. Individuals were also more willing to sign a petition after being exposed to positive immigration information than in the absence of it.

The researchers also found that the positive impacts last over the delayed 10-12 day study period, but are diminished compared to the immediate studies.

Abstract, a weekly column to appear on Tuesdays, will summarise a policy or paper.


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