Influencing Migration Policy and Public Debate through Targeted Communications: Lessons for Researchers and Practitioners as to What, Who, How, and When to Engage

Migration research is taking place within a rapidly evolving, contested, and polarized space. It is difficult for researchers who are seeking to influence policymaking on migration to communicate their research, and see their findings translated into action. Arguably, one reason for this lack of translation is that many researchers ignore the outsized role that the public has within migration policymaking. This paper focuses on how researchers can best communicate their findings to policymakers and the public by interrogating what they produce (translating long and complex reports into nuanced narratives, combining facts and emotion-based arguments); who they target (tailoring findings to those in the ‘conflicted’ middle); how they disseminate it (using mediums that appeal to a researchers’ target audience); and when they disseminate it (engaging with the policy adoption process throughout).

From the paper:

Researchers and practitioners, whether they are based in academic departments, advocacy organizations, or think tanks, are increasingly seeking to influence policymakers and contribute to “evidence-based” policy. Arguably, migration policy is one of the most difficult fields in which to do this. Migration is a highly emotive and value-driven subject, and one that overlaps with a range of other complex policy issues. The public has strong attitudes on the number and types of immigrants they want to accept and the level of support that should be provided once they arrive. These attitudes are formed at an early age by internal drivers (such as underlying values) and are difficult for external drivers (such as media coverage, political rhetoric, and communications campaigns) to shift. Policymakers must understand and respond to these attitudes, meaning migration policy is more aligned with what people think than what the evidence suggests would be most beneficial.

Read the full paper here.

This is a draft working paper. The final version will be available in Handbook of Research Methods in Migration: Second Edition, edited by William Allen and Carlos Vargas-Silva, forthcoming 2024, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.

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