By Tamsin Rutter, The Guardian
Debate around migration is rife with misconceptions. Britons overestimate the number of immigrants living in the UK, the numbers claiming benefits and the scale of the migration problem for Europe. So if those who believe in honest debate arm themselves with accurate data and go forth to spread it in the public domain, would the misconceptions disappear?
“These misconceptions are reflective of people’s preferences,” said John Curtice, a research consultant to the National Centre for Social Research, kicking off a panel discussion hosted by the Guardian and the British Academy this week in Brighton.
In other words, some people prefer not to welcome foreigners into their country, and their perceptions are warped by this preference. Curtice, a politics professor at Strathclyde University, continued: “The people who think that immigration is relatively high are the people who think that immigration is bad for Britain, economically or culturally. You can talk about what you regard as the facts and you may begin to change people’s perceptions to a certain degree, but I’m not sure that’s going to be enough to persuade people from the view they currently hold.”
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The Migration into the UK: can the public count on official statistics? panel was sponsored by the British Academy and held at the UK Labour Party conference on September 28, 2015.
- David Brindle, public services editor, the Guardian (chair)
- Keith Vaz, Labour MP and chair of the home affairs select committee
- Richard Howitt, member of the European Parliament (MEP) and chair of the European Parliamentary Labour Party
- John Curtice, a politics professor at Strathclyde University, research consultant to the National Centre for Social Research (Natcen) and fellow of the British Academy
- Catherine Barnard, professor of European Union law and Jean Monnet chair of EU law at the University of Cambridge