• #Integration
  • #Migration

Who is reshaping public opinion on EU migration policies?

daniela majercakova
volunteer - Evanjelicka diakonia ECAV na Slovensku
Enrico Gallerani
Social Operator - Non profit

Since 2015, the EU institutions are increasingly trying to respond and communicate to public opinion about developments and facts on EU migration policies. Information about policy developments spread through Europe’s fragmented media landscape, alongside highly mediatised stories of migrant arrivals and living conditions in and outside Europe, incidents of crime and acts of terrorism and the use of fake news and disinformation for political purposes.


As our first expert brief mapping the recent research on media and public opinion relationship shows, the public opinion on EU migration policy are linked to changing narratives and frames in policy and discourse circulating in different media sources and at different scales (local versus national media). Social experiments also point at several individual factors in shaping what we observe as “public opinion,” such as one’s empathy level, already existing partisanship or geographical proximity to newcomers. In our expert interview,  Dr. Leila Hadj Abdou and Dr. Lenka Dražanová highlight that:

- it is necessary to consider the negative effects of the increased salience of the issue on public opinion on migrants and migration policies.

- what appears as fake news nowadays is more related to how the available information is framed and presented.

- issue framing must be a key consideration of NGOs and policy actors who would like their claims and policy proposals to be welcomed and accepted by those with opposing values and opinions.


Therefore, key issues and controversies highlighted in the upcoming ReSOMA discussion brief include:

- links between attitudes towards migrants and attitude towards the EU

- trends towards polarisation, political fragmentation and mistrust

- changing discourses of mainstream political parties

- the importance of framing, messengers and storytelling

- role of the media in different politicised national contexts

- effects of direct experiences of EU migration policies

- new uses of social media, especially for fake news and disinformation.


This online consultation aims to discuss with national stakeholders, practitioners, policy actors and researchers the following three topics:


Topic 1- Needs for better support:

- Where have you observed major changes in public attitudes towards the EU migration policies? On what types of policies?

- In what ways are information and disinformation reshaping public opinion about the EU’s migration policies? Please also fill out a quick scoring survey on different options.

- What elements are necessary for local and national actors to build a narrative and communications strategy that will influence public opinion on migration policies?


Topic 2: Policy actions to ensure that needs are addressed:

- Which proactive measures and actors are effective for informing public opinion on a large scale? And which are effective for limiting the damage of fake news?

- How can authorities be more responsive to changes in public debate?


Topic 3- The role of the EU and other actors:

- What role could the EU play to support these measures and empower the most effective local and national actors?

- How can authorities directly reach the citizens and migrants most directly affected by EU migration policies on the ground?


We invite you all to share your views, experiences and examples on the public attitudes towards the EU migration policies in your country of work/residence.


To join the discussion, please first log in to the platform in the top right corner. 


When you leave a message, please note in the subject line the topic you are responding to in order to ensure a more interactive dialogue between commentators. Ex: “Topic 3: school boards play more important role than…”


Please scroll down to read and reply to previous comments!

Zeynep Kasli
Erasmus University Rotterdam
09.07.2019 12:25

Topic 2: any experience with unusual allies?

Kris Pole's first message on unusual allies is very much in line with what Lenka Drazanova and Leila Hadj Abdou's suggestion for issue framing (while framing your message, think of people are NOT like you/your organisation).
It will be worthwhile to collect such positive examples of communication. Is there anyone out there who have tried to do this? Please reply this message!

24.06.2019 17:06

Topic 2: Authorities should stop fueling misguided perceptions of public attitudes towards migration

Posted on behalf of ECRE

The populist far-right have been kindly assisted by mainstream politicians in moving from the political periphery to the center of attention so you could say that authorities in most European countries have been extremely responsive to an imagined radical negative change in public attitudes towards migrants and refugees. In fact as public opinion studies of European attitudes confirms it is a myth – the salience of the migration issue and the fear of chaos (in conservative segments) both promoted by the current discourse are driving the far-right turnout – which is still limited in most European Member states.

Politicians with the will, integrity and vision to stand up for the fundamental principles of the rule of law for all have the large majority of Europeans on their side and the basic message should be that jeopardizing fundamental rights is not solely a question of how we want to treat migrants and refugees but will potentially affect our societies at large - when universal principles becomes selective they are bound to lose validity - we have already seen some scary examples in member states. European politicians don’t lack the willingness to respond - the response is simply the wrong one and so is the analysis generating it. Human rights organisations can communicate this through direct advocacy and press work targeting policy makers.

24.06.2019 16:42

Topic 2: Finding unusual allies is key in countering "fake news"

Posted on behalf of ECRE

At a time when EU and member state migration and asylum policies are to a large extent guided by and legitimized through the same doubtful narratives and dogma as the populist far-right misinformation, it is difficult to imagine some kind of top/down public information from political entities being helpful. There seems to be little real disagreement on substance just a slightly different vocabulary and level of opportunism in communicating - the so-called 'refugee/migrant crisis.' If the "damage of fake news" is understood as an erosion of fundamental rights of people in need of protection then the best proactive measures would be for our politicians to defend those rights rather than supporting their erosion.

However, in the ideal world politicians at EU and member state level could and should be champions and advocates of change. Four solutions runs through all ECRE communication 1) a fundamental reform of the asylum system in Europe, removing dysfunctionalities and generating collective sharing of responsibility; 2) safe and legal channels to access protection; 3) global approaches to responsibility sharing and addressing causes of displacement, with Europe doing its fair share; and 4) inclusion of refugees in our societies through respect for their rights.

Human rights organisations can indeed communicate effectively to engage their base or mobilise progressive segments beyond – It is by now recognized although not always practiced that the inclusion of the voices of people of refugee or migrant background is vital in that regard.
However, their potential in converting segments strongly opposed to or even skeptical towards open societies is limited. In fact sometimes attempts to do so might be counter-productive because they provide a platform to respond and often confirms the negative clichés of civil society by sounding patronizing, elitist, idealistic/naive etc.

We are seeing increasingly useful engagement from unfamiliar places - private sector with the need for open societies and with CSR strategies, a security and diplomatic environment also concerned with the consequences of shortsighted and counter constructive European policies which will potentially become more influential.