Using emotions in migration policy communication


Published February 2023

#Migration Narratives and Public Opinion #Migration Dialogues #Cross Cutting Topics


Emotions are regularly cited as vital components of effective strategic communication in the world of migration and beyond. However, until this report, there was relatively little guidance about how emotions should be used in migration policy communication. Emotions are vital to persuasion because attitudes have a cognitive (thinking) component and an emotional (feeling) component. Moreover, eliciting emotions causes involuntary but predictable physiological and behavioural reactions. Emotions can be used in communication to make one’s messages more resonant and impactful on both attitudes and behaviours, supporting policy objectives via persuasion.

Communicators should choose the desired emotional reaction according to the desired physiological and behavioural reaction using existing psychological schema, one of which this report analyses with 32 separate emotions and physiological reactions. Eliciting unsuitable emotions may have adverse reactions from audiences. Communicators can use this report’s recommendation and framework to ensure that the emotions, physiological and desired behaviours of their campaigns are aligned and thus effective. Narratives, personal-based messages, facial expressions, body language, and aesthetics can be used to create emotional resonance and reduce psychological distance. Frames, ordering (“emotional flow”), intensities, and certain combinations can also be used to elicit different emotions with predictable outcomes.

Emotions should be used to make one’s argument more resonant but the argument should not be simply based on the emotional reaction—the “appeal to emotion” logical fallacy. Indeed, for emotion-based communication to work, it should also use facts, values, identities, and efficacy. Emotion-based communication in the field of migration, although widely used, is largely untested—communicators should test different approaches but also can take lessons from other fields such as corporate, health, and climate change communications.

This report critically analyses 10 examples of good emotion-based migration communication, highlighting the different emotions and physiological reactions that they are likely to induce, and to what extent these are in line with the communication campaign’s stated objectives.


Strategic Communication for Migration Policymakers – Lessons from the State of the Science


Published December 2021

Immigration narratives in the Euro-Mediterranean region: what people believe and why


Published July 2021

#Migration Narratives and Public Opinion #Migration Dialogues


This report draws on recent scholarly advances to better specify what narratives are and to explain variation in their popularity before considering how their effects on immigration policy preferences varies. The study then considers the popularity of eight simple migration narratives — four positive, four negative — in eight countries across the Euro-Mediterranean region today using recent World Values Survey data. Finally, the extent to which belief in each of these narratives affects one’s preferred immigration policy is tested.

Impact of Public Attitudes to migration on the political environment in the Euro-Mediterranean Region – First Chapter Europe


Published June 2021



The report forms part of the Phase III Euromed Migration Communications Study. This chapter considers how and why these dramatic changes in the importance of the issue, or salience of immigration, occurred in European politics. It combines findings from various scientific sources to produce a theoretical framework that explains how salience affects electoral outcomes, both in terms of turnout and results, and ultimately public policy via emotional activation, exposure to information and evaluation of politicians.

How to Perform Impact Assessments: Key Steps for Assessing Communication Interventions


Published August 2020


The demand for assessing the impact of communication campaigns across all sectors is increasing. In the field of migration, this demand is particularly acute because of, amongst other things, the potential of such campaigns to have real-world consequences for millions of people. This report brings together disparate terminology, findings and recommendations from the private and public sectors and academia to synthesise a set of five general steps for practitioners when performing IAs.