In a report, A Fair Deal on Migration for the UK, it argues that groups in favour of restricting immigration, such as UKIP, have dominated the debate.
It sets out a new strategy for progressive campaigners that would move away from an argument based on the net economic benefits of migration to focus on ensuring migrants who come to the UK are seen to work hard, contribute, play by the rules and ‘fit in’ to British society.
Cross-party campaign group The Migration Matters Trust director Atul Hatwal said the approach is "worthy but naïve".
"They have misunderstood the communications landscape in which their messages are landing," he said.
"In campaign terms, all things being equal, a message on the fairness of a process is usually trumped by one about the nature of its outcome. Unless the benefits of immigration in terms of lower taxes, lower debt, improved services and higher growth are understood then why would the public think a fair migration process matters?"
Public policy specialist PR agency Champollion MD Simon Buckby agreed that the strategy was wrong-headed.
"The only communications strategy that can start to turn the tide of opinion is to fight on the facts, notably that the country is better off because of the immigration we have had, and that this financial gain should benefit us all fairly with no community left to pay the price while the rest of us to get wealthier."
The IPPR is a centre-left think-tank employing more than 40 staff and led by former head of the No 10 Policy Unit Nick Pearce.
IPPR director of comms Tim Finch responded: "Of course there are different perspectives on how best to communicate more positive messages on migration and there is no monopoly on wisdom in this field. But our emphasis on prioritising ‘fairness’ over economic benefits and appealing more to deeply held feelings rather than to ‘the facts’, is based on our research and analysis of public attitudes over a number of years.
"We are not alone in concluding that this is now a more productive approach to detoxifying the migration debate. In the UK the leading think tank British Future is pursuing just this strategy, for instance, and we have all learnt from the big shift in US migration advocacy led by America's Voice, Opportunity Agenda and others."