An alternative to alternative facts

Dr Rachel Hodder
Insights Newsletter
27 January, 2017

‘Alternative facts’ has been the phrase of the week. President Trump’s attempts to increase the crowd figures at his inauguration demonstrated a new low in post-truth politics.

However, ‘alternative facts’ are nothing new in political debates. Prejudices, distortions and outright lies are not a Trump invention. We encounter them all the time when people are led by what they want to believe to be right (as opposed to what is actually the case).

It is then the role of academic researchers, journalists and think tankers to set the record straight. And this was the motivation behind the Initiative’s new report on immigration which we will launch on Monday.

When it comes to immigration, many people think they know what is going on. They have picked up bits of information in the media such as New Zealand’s recent rise in long-term arrivals. They may have read about problems with some migrant groups in some countries (not necessarily in New Zealand). They are concerned about what immigration might mean for housing, crime, social cohesion or public finances.

Out of this mixture of factual pieces, gut instincts and anecdotal evidence an opinion may then be formed about what immigration could mean for New Zealand. However, when it comes to complex topics such as immigration these opinions can stray from reality.

Understanding how immigration affects New Zealand requires a comprehensive examination of the evidence. And this is where our new report comes in.

We have listened carefully to what people are concerned about when it comes to migration. We certainly share many of their concerns because we too want to see a New Zealand that benefits from migration. We too want to make sure that migration is a win-win story for New Zealanders and migrants alike.

For our new report we thus had a look at the financial contribution that migrants make to the public purse. We asked how much of an impact migration has on our housing market. We sought good data on how well migrants integrate into our society. We wanted to know whether immigration may be affecting job opportunities for Kiwi workers.

On all of these measures, we evaluated the evidence and compiled it into one concise report: The New New Zealanders.

Stay tuned for the launch of our new report on 30 January. You may be surprised by the many impacts migration is having on our country.

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