Still divided but more open – Mapping European attitudes towards migration before and after the migration crisis (FES)

A new report published by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung shows how attitudes across Europe have changed before and after the 2015 migration ‘crisis’ and tries to explain what has driven those changes. Using data from the European Social Survey, the report’s authors find that, overall, perceptions of migration have remained both neutral and stable before and after the ‘crisis’. But there are a few countries that have become significantly more positive about migrants, as well as a few that have become significantly more negative.

Key findings from the report:

Changes in attitudes

The proportion of people in 19 surveyed countries who would unconditionally reject the arrival and settling of migrants from poorer countries outside Europe declined from 15% in 2014/2015 to 10% in 2016/2017.

People in the UK, Ireland and Portugal have become considerably more positive about migrants, while people in Hungary and Estonia have become considerably more negative.

Factors in attitudes

People who feel politically disempowered, financially insecure and without social support are the most likely to develop extremely negative attitudes towards migrants.

The values of security and humanitarianism correlate most strongly with attitudes towards migrants. Those who place more importance on security tend to have the most negative attitudes towards migration, while those who emphasise equality and respect for others tend to have the most positive attitudes.

Regional differences in attitudes within countries were not as important as differences in attitudes between countries.

Political parties

Left-wing voters are generally positive about migration, while right-wing voters are generally negative—but there are major differences between countries. In Austria and Italy, left-wing party supporters are neutral about migration, and in Hungary, they express rejection of migrants at a level similar to supporters of right-wing populist parties in other countries.

Left-wing voters’ attitudes on migration did not change significantly based on how left-oriented these voters were. But among right-wing voters, the more extreme their right-wing orientation, the more negative they felt towards migration.

While supporters of right-wing populist parties across the surveyed countries were similarly negative in their attitudes towards migration, the extent to which they expressed rejection of migrants varied significantly between countries. The authors argue that the norms set by mainstream political parties in each country have a major impact on whether general negative attitudes about migration transform into extreme rejection of migrants.

Photo by Alex Radelich on Unsplash

Publication Date:
Mon 15 Apr 2019
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