Evidence and perceptions in the post-Brexit immigration debate

There is consensus that anti-immigration sentiments played an important role in the UK’s vote to leave the EU. Previous research, including by NIESR, finds that there is a disconnect between evidence on the benefits of immigration, particularly to the economy, and public perceptions. In this project NIESR is partnering with academics from the fields of philosophy and psychology to understand better how people process evidence about the impact of immigration. Using focus group methods, our aim is to identify effective forms of communication that enable people to consider evidence in formulating their opinions on immigration.

We are using experimental focus groups, with control and treatment arms and use of a facts based video, to investigate a series of prominent hypotheses in the psychological literature which may explain why people do not integrate information about the economic impacts into their views of immigration. The focus groups will also gain insights into the role of immigration attitudes in the decision to vote Leave in the EU referendum.

Timescale and funder
The evaluation is funded by the Leverhulme Trust. It began in October 2017, and all focus groups have been completed and the research team are currently analysing the data and survey responses. The report was published in October 2018. You can watch a short video on the topic here:



NIESR Staff involved in this project
Dr Heather Rolfe (Principal Investigator), Nathan Hudson-Sharp, Johnny Runge. Dr Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij, Birkbeck University of London (Co-investigator)

Research programmes