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Still divided but more open Mapping European attitudes towards migration before and after the migration crisis
Abstract and Figures
The European Social Survey (ESS) is an academically driven, cross-national survey that has been conducted across Europe since its establishment in 2001. Every two years, face-to-face interviews are conducted with newly selected, cross-sectional samples. The survey measures the attitudes, beliefs and behaviour patterns of diverse populations in more than thirty nations. The main aims of the ESS are: • to chart stability and change in social structure, conditions and attitudes in Europe, and to interpret how Europe's social, political and moral fabric is changing; • to achieve and spread higher standards of rigour in cross-national research in the social sciences, including for example, questionnaire design and pre-testing, sampling, data collection , reduction of bias and the reliability of questions; • to introduce soundly-based indicators of national progress, based on citizens' perceptions and judgements of key aspects of their societies; • to undertake and facilitate the training of European social researchers in comparative quantitative measurement and analysis; • to improve the visibility and outreach of data on social change among academics, policy makers and the wider public. Summary of findings ▪ Based on data from the European Social Survey (ESS) the analysis explores cross-national differences in perceptions of migration, and discovers factors that may lie behind the immense differences in the acceptance versus rejection of migrants across European countries. ▪ The results show how attitudes have changed from before to after the 2015 migration 'crisis', and also draw a wider picture of attitude shifts in 15 European countries between 2002 and 2016/17. ▪ Overall, the perception of migration in European countries remains neutral and stable-respondents see as many advantages as disadvantages of worldwide mobility. In terms of behaviour, roughly one tenth of surveyed Europeans would unconditionally reject migrants arriving from poorer countries outside Europe and settling in their countries. • Considering the immediate differences in attitudes before and after 2015 migration crisis, the overall level of unconditional rejection has decreased from 15% to 10%. People in the UK, Ireland and Portugal have become significantly more positive about migrants, while only Hungarians and Estonians became significantly more negative. Attitudes in other countries did not change in a significant manner. • In contrast to long-term democracies, in Hungary, Czech Republic, Estonia, and Lithuania negative attitudes are more likely to be turned into negative behavioural or policy expectations. It is suspected that the strength of norms as set by political and public discourse plays a decisive role in determining the degree to which negative attitudes are turned into explicit rejection and exclusion. • The conclusion of our previous study "widespread and homogenizing anti-migrant attitudes in some countries have little to do with migrants" has been further supported by the present analysis. Anti-migrant attitudes are strongest and are likely to increase further in countries where migrants are hardly present, where people don't have personal experiences with immigrants but where they lack the feeling of safety and control. • Looking into which values are associated with certain attitudes, two types of values show the strongest correlation: security and humanitarianism. Those who attribute great significance to security tend to be the most negative towards immigration, while those who value equality and respect of other people are least fearful of migrants. • In most countries (with four exceptions) humanitarian values are more dominant than security. Especially in the Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway and Finland), the Netherlands, France, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium, humanitarian values are-in general-valued more highly than security. • Looking at how support for certain political parties is associated with attitudes towards migrants, left-wing voters generally tend to have a positive attitude towards migration, centrist voters are broadly neutral, while right-wings voters generally have a negative attitude. However, while those self-identifying with the left are equally positive about migration, irrespective of how left-oriented they feel, political right-wing extremism correlates with extreme anti-migrant attitudes. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS 4 • Right-wing populist parties gather and feed that part of the population which is very negative towards migrants and migration in general. They seem to provide a terrain on which to openly express the rage fuelled by uncertainty, and to blame migrants. In almost all countries one or two such parties exist, the difference lies rather in how powerful they are. • When looking at the profile of those expressing homogeneously negative attitudes towards migrants we see that it is not the basic demographic profile that makes them unique from the rest of the population but rather their subjective perceptions. Those who feel politically disempowered, financially insecure and without social support are more likely to have homogeneously anti-migrant attitudes compared to the rest of the population. • The analysis of attitudes towards migration by supporters of right-wing populist parties demonstrates that although their perceptions of the consequences of migration are quite similar (very negative) across countries, the rejection of migrants is very different. These data show the degree to which dominant norms, set by mainstream politics, matter in terms of transforming aversion into extreme rejection of migrants. Hence, the political power such parties wield-whether in government or in opposition-plays a critical role in determining the degree to which anti-migrant narratives are allowed to become the norm within a society.
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