Good use of some simple facts and statistics could “detoxify” immigration debate, a new report by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) shows.
While big statistics, such as the number of migrants in the UK were not of much interest, the research found that some statistics were useful in considering the benefits and costs of immigration to the UK. These include rates of benefit claims among migrants, effects on wages, effects on jobs and the economic contribution of migrants through taxes.
According to the report, statistics can play a useful role in the immigration debate when linked closely to specific issues that are of direct concern to the public.
It also argues that there is a role for careful and accurate explanation of the evidence, and that there is considerable demand for this among people who do not have strong preconceptions on the immigration debate.
The report’s authors conclude that a ‘small dose of statistics’ on issues of particular interest to the public might help improve the quality of the debate.
Heather Rolfe, project lead and Principal Researcher at NIESR said: “Immigration isn’t the only issue on which the public is misinformed but the toxicity of the debate has led governments to reformulate policies and rules according to opinion rather than facts. This has to be troubling to anyone who believes in evidence-based policy making’.
“Politicians have underestimated the ability and willingness of the public to engage in reasoned debate about the impacts of immigration. Our research participants wanted to look beyond tired statements that migrants are taking jobs from British workers or here as ‘benefit tourists’. They wanted to be better informed and to have a more reasoned discussion.”