Monday, April 10, 2017

Can we overcome public ignorance about immigration?

A study published last year indicates that many people with anti-immigrant positions will change their attitudes if presented with facts about immigrants—such as immigrants’ share in the overall population, their incarceration rate, their employment rate, and their ability to speak English. This suggests that one major factor in anti-immigrant attitudes is the failure omedia to present an accurate picture of immigration. However, the study also indicates that the simple presentation of facts generally doesn’t change people’s preferences on immigration policy, as opposed to their attitudes toward immigrants. In other words, facts aren’t enough by themselves—suggesting that we need more engagement with people in the form of discussion, dialogue, and organizing.—TPOI editor
By Ilya Somin, Washington Post
April 6, 2017
Widespread political ignorance is a serious problem, and affects public opinion on many issues. Immigration figures prominently on the list of those issues. During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump effectively exploited public ignorance about the number of immigrants and their effect on the crime rate. Similar ignorance likely had an impact on the Brexit referendum in Britain. One of the most pernicious aspects of political ignorance is that many people, both right and left, tend to reject new information that conflicts with their preexisting views. Such “motivated reasoning” is particularly likely on emotionally charged issues, such as immigration. That reality makes it difficult to break through misinformation when it does arise. Even otherwise intelligent and knowledgeable people tend to process new political information in a highly biased way.

But new research by economists Alexis Grigorieff, Christopher Roth, and Diego Ubfal suggests that combating public ignorance about immigration may not be as hopeless a task as it might seem.[…]

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