Why is opinion on migration changing?

The Age yesterday reported claims that comments former Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews made last year about the reasons for slowing the African refugee intake led to more hostility towards Africans:

following Mr Andrews’ comments the NSW Immigration Department [sic] received reports of racial harassment directed at the African community.

“On 14 November 2007, the (deleted) reported that anecdotal evidence suggested an increase in racial harassment directed at Africans in the Parramatta area,” the department-in-confidence community update says.

As is usually the case with these claims, there is no real evidence here of either cause or effect. My own view is that politicians have little influence on subjects people can make up their own minds about. But what politicians say, and reactions to their comments (usually very heated where ethnicity is concerned), do alter the salience of particular issues. It is possible, though not very likely, that greater public discussion of the problems of African migrants had negative consequences for them.

But we can say that there is little sign in survey evidence that particular issues to do with African migrants, relating to gangs and crime, have had any influence on overall public opinion.
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