Communication about the diversity advantage works!
Many different factors combine to influence policies on the integration of migrants into the host society: the availability of jobs; access to rights and services and knowledge of the host country’s language(s) and culture; intercultural opening of local institutions; and activities to combat discrimination and foster intercultural interaction in the neighbourhoods... But the public view of diversity and migration is as important, if not more so, in determining integration policies and their outcomes.
Political discourse and public debate are often considered as having an influence on public perceptions – but evidence is lacking. Despite the existence of international and national legal standards, dedicated institutions and campaign to fight against discrimination, the dominant attitude to migrants in many societies remains negative and xenophobic acts – a reality. The influence of xenophobic parties is growing*.
The Intercultural cities’ belief is that the best way to counter xenophobia is by promoting the idea of diversity advantage. In order to verify this hypothesis, the SPARDA project was carried out with the support of the European Integration Fund. Seven partners (Coimbra (Portugal), Had-Dingli (Malta), Limassol (Cyprus), Patras (Greece), Reggio Emilia (Italy), Institut des Médias/ISCPA in Lyon (France), and the Consortium of PACTEM Nord in Valencia (Spain) carried out diversity communication campaigns. The impact was assessed by representative opinion polls and focus groups. The main result of SPARDA was the confirmation that communicating about the diversity advantage does have an impact on public opinion.
Most people would in principle feel friendly to new neighbours of various backgrounds (with the exception of Roma);
Friendliness has increased after the campaigns towards most groups;
In most cities the tension experienced between ethnic and religious groups was low, and tension between ethnic groups sometimes higher than between religious groups;
Older and least educated respondents were more negative towards the migrants and more sceptical about the diversity advantage;
Still, 56per cent agreed that migration is good for the economy;
People with high or medium contact with different people, were more positive towards diversity;
The belief that there are too many migrants correlated with the concern places pressure on public services and with the perception migration makes it more difficult to find jobs;
The message that diversity is good for the city was quoted by 43 % of respondents as a campaign message.
The interactive events were most appreciated, eg the opportunity to meet migrants, hear their stories, taste different kinds of food, engage in dialogue etc.
* Cas Mudde, The relationship between immigration and nativism in Europe and North America, Migration policy institute 2012