(MIGRATION POLICY INSTITUTE) At a time when people have more information at their fingertips than ever, it feels as though it has become equally easy to share it widely or to ignore, discount, and discredit it. Several factors have contributed to this state of affairs. New technologies have given a platform to a wider range of voices, but this has also meant that unvetted information and politically motivated “fake news” find their way more easily into the bloodstream of public debate. Human nature also shapes how people consume and recall information, making them more likely to resist information that contradicts their existing beliefs and personal experiences.
Nowhere has this been more apparent than in debates about hot-button issues such as immigration. Whether in the run-up to the 2016 UK referendum on Brexit, elections across Europe and North America, or responses to the 2015–16 European refugee and migration crisis, emotionally charged and anecdotal narratives about immigrants, refugees, and their effects on receiving communities often seemed to drown out arguments made on the basis of robust data and evidence.