LESSONS IN TABLOID SPIN: HOW THE DAILY MAIL LIED ABOUT AN EU STUDY

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The anti-migrant tabloid The Daily Mail has been up to its old tricks once again, this time going out of its way to try and negatively interpret statistics from a European study and put the blame on refugees.

In a report titled CITIES WITH LARGEST INFLUX OF MIGRANTS SAY THEY’VE SUFFERED A HUGE DROP IN LIVING STANDARDS, EUROPEAN COMMISSION STUDY FINDS, the paper goes on to say that ‘European cities in countries hardest hit by the migrant crisis say the arrival of foreigners has had a negative impact on their communities.

The article is based on a 2015 European Commission study entitled The Quality Of Life In European Cities, where a total of over 40,000 residents of 83 cities were surveyed on a range of issues including happiness, health, employment, housing, migration and neighbourhood safety.

The trouble is that the study report says no such thing. No cities reported a huge drop in living standards and nobody said that the arrival of foreigners had negatively impacted their communities.

The findings from the report were overall positive, with the majority of residents reporting high levels of satisfaction similar to those from a previous study carried out in 2012. Views on migration were also generally positive. But The Daily Mail has chosen to cherry-pick a handful of figures and try and twist them to fit yet another anti-migrant article.

Respondents were asked two questions about migrants in the survey – whether the presence of foreigners is positive, and whether foreigners are well integrated. In all bar 5 of the 83 cities, the majority said that foreigners were a positive addition to their city. With those who disagreed, it was only a slender majority (Istanbul being the largest at 55%).

On integration, the responses were positive overall, although not as overwhelmingly so. 40% of the cities (33 of the 83) had fewer than half of respondents agreeing that foreigners have been well integrated, although only 13% (11 of the 83) had over half of respondents actually disagreeing with the question.

With general living standards, the majority in every city were satisfied with where they live and their quality of life. Apart from Athens, every city had at least 75% happy with where they live. Only 7 cities had a majority feeling unsafe in their city centres (although no cities had a majority feeling unsafe in their home neighbourhoods). On other issues such as healthcare, employment and housing, there was no correlation between low scores and recent migration.

Yet somehow The Daily Mail has interpreted the study as a damning indictment of the effects of recent migration to Europe, despite there being no mention of any such thing anywhere in the report. This appears to be based on low and declining scores in a couple of Turkish cities (‘one of the countries experiencing a huge influx of migrants fleeing conflict in the Middle East‘, it reports), dissatisfaction in Italian and a couple of Greek cities, and a couple of statistics cherry-picked to fit their argument.

But the arguments are desperate and poorly put together. They’ve matched a few low scores with areas with higher levels of migration but haven’t put any of it in context or fully checked the statistics to see if there is any overall correlation or pattern (I have and there isn’t). So their conclusions are meaningless.

They’ve also assumed that general lower satisfaction scores in terms of living standards are due to migration levels. Yet the scores in Turkey are more likely to be due to dissatisfaction with the government which has become more authoritarian over the past five years. Scores in Greece and Italy are likely to be affected by overall economic problems in those countries. This would help explain why scores in Greek cities, while relatively low, have generally improved slightly since 2012.

It’s a pity that The Daily Mail couldn’t produce an article that more accurately reflected the positive findings of the study, which is essentially a reminder that citizens in countries on the most economically prosperous continent on the planet are in general quite happy with their lives. But then that doesn’t really fit in with the paper’s negative, mean-spirited, fear-peddling narrative, does it?

Check the European Commission report out in full for yourself here.

The Daily Mail article on the report can be found here.

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