As with an increasing number of other complex issues, policymakers engaged in immigration reforms must be acutely attuned and responsive to public opinion. They must also understand how their proposals will be echoed by the media. Analysts and idea makers, meanwhile, must fireproof their recommendations — so that they survive not only on paper, but in the heat of public debate. This series of papers, presented during the Transatlantic Council on Migration’s third plenary meeting, held in May 2009 in Bellagio, Italy, systematically analyze public opinion and media coverage of migration across the Atlantic. Read the Council Statement issued after the meeting.
Migration, Public Opinion and Politics
Public perceptions and media coverage of immigrants and immigration policy are powerful forces in shaping the immigration debate. Understanding public opinion on immigration, how this impacts the political debate and how it affects reform prospects is critical in designing a strategy to advance thoughtful, rational and effective immigration and integration policy.
This volume explores a critical policy issue that has often been underestimated in the migration policy debate: the media and public opinion. The book focuses in particular on three case studies: the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany. The volume includes chapters analyzing public opinion and media coverage of immigration issues in each country. Additional chapters propose strategies for unblocking opposition to thoughtful, effective immigration-related reforms.
Individual Papers presented at the Council's meeting are available below:
German Public Opinion on Immigration and Integration
Though nearly one-fifth of Germany’s population is comprised of immigrants and their descendants and the country has been receiving immigrants for the last four decades, Germans have long perceived immigration as a temporary phenomenon. This paper examines German public opinion on immigration and integration, fniding that views have been fairly consistent over time.
America’s Views of Immigration: The Evidence from Public Opinion Surveys
This report examines Americans’ perplexity over immigration: Their anxiety and ambivalence about illegal immigration, but widespread support for immigrants in general and for legalization to address the status of unauthorized immigrants. For most Americans, however, immigration remains a second- or third-tier issue, far from their most pressing concerns.
British Attitudes to Immigration in the 21st Century
Since 1999, concern about immigration in Britain has reached levels never seen before in the history of public opinion research, and surveys show strong support for tougher immigration laws. But opinions vary: younger, better-educated people and those who tend to live in areas with a longer history of immigration are more tolerant than older, less-educated people in more settled communities with low levels of immigration, as this paper explores.
Promoting Stalemate: The Media and U.S. Policy on Migration
In this paper, the author argues that US media coverage of immigration and the transformation of the media business have hindered effective immigration policy reform for years, playing an important role in influencing public opinion and creating the current policy stalemate.
The Media and Migration in the United Kingdom, 1999 to 2009
The print and broadcast media in the United Kingdom typically use a “template” to frame coverage of migration, focusing primarily on asylum seekers, refugees, unauthorized migrants, and migrant workers. As a result, the media contribute to a perception that immigration is in perpetual crisis – thus influencing policy monitoring and reform, the author argues.
The Evolution of German Media Coverage of Migration
The German media has helped reinforce the image of immigrants as “foreigners” and “aliens,” dating back to the arrival of the first guest workers in the 1950s and 1960s, contributing to an atmosphere of polarization among the German public, the author suggests. Yet as Germany has given increased focus to integration policies, media coverage has evolved as well.
Immigrating from Facts to Values: Political Rhetoric in the U.S. Immigration Debate
Voters’ brains connect words, phrases, images, values, and emotions, and these connections — known as networks of association — influence their receptiveness to political messages, often far more strongly than facts and rational arguments. In this paper, the author dissects the messaging surrounding immigration.
Political Rhetoric in the Netherlands in Times of Crisis
This paper examines the intersection of migration, integration, and security issues that have been rapidly and dramatically politicized in the Netherlands over the last decade and how politicians such as Geert Wilders and the media characterized events such as the murders of Pim Fortuyn and Theo Van Gogh as well as the release of the controversial film, Fitna.
The Politics of Immigration, and the (Limited) Case for New Optimism: Perspectives from a Political Pollster
While there may be openings for immigration reform and liberalization in the United States and Europe, they come more from changes in demographics, coalitions, elections, and the opportunity for messages that address voters’ frustrations, and less from the favorable nature of public opinion regarding immigration.
Memo to President Obama Regarding Immigration Policy
In this memo, a veteran immigrant-rights strategist offers his views on the politics and policy of achieving immigration reform.
Future Immigration Patterns and Policies in the United Kingdom
This paper examines the major policy changes that have occurred in the United Kingdom over recent years, amid a changed environment and immigration context. The author articulates strategies that policymakers should focus on as they address key challenges with respect to immigration: public confidence, immigrant integration, and good governance.
The Future of Migration and Integration Policy in Germany
Germany has undertaken a set of steps since 2000 to reform its laws and shape public opinion in order to bring about better immigrant integration and managed migration. This policy shift ended a longstanding public and political pretense that Germany is not a country of immigration. Yet the author finds that amid the progress, more remains to be done to meet the needs of the 21 st century.