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Public perceptions of migration and integration

  • Eurobarometer surveys between 2011 and 2019 show that the shares of people mentioning immigration as one of the most important issues for the EU reached a peak during the so-called asylum and refugee crisis in all Member States in 2015/16. When asked what respondents thought to be most important for their countries, immigration featured less prominently. And when considering importance for themselves personally, immigration barely emerged.
  • In all EU-28 countries, people who have positive attitudes towards immigration are also more likely to have positive views towards the EU and vice versa.
  • Voting for parties with restrictive views on migration is better explained by socio-economic factors such as low population density, low income and the age structure of the residing population than the presence of migrants at local level.
  • Zooming in on the Eurobarometer data of 2017, social integration was considered key, with speaking the host-country language placed first.
  • People at the (centre-) right of the political spectrum are much more in favour of mandatory integration measures than those at the (centre-) left.
  • Perceiving integration as successful is positively associated with positive views regarding the impact of immigrants on society and seeing immigration as an opportunity.
  • People who consider themselves well informed tend to have positive views of both immigration and integration. When it comes to actual knowledge, overestimating the share of immigrants in the country tends to be related to negative attitudes on migration.
  • Respondents with frequent contacts among immigrants tend to perceive their integration as successful. However, the relationship between contacts with immigrants and people’s attitudes to immigration is less straightforward.
  • Concerns about immigration can result in public anxiety, xenophobia and increased support for anti-immigration political forces with wide-ranging political consequences for destination countries.
  • However, increased immigration does not always have to result in anti-immigration sentiment. According to the Migration Policy Institute, five conditions fuel societal anxiety about immigration:  
  1. Sudden flows of immigrants that are perceived as destabilising.
  2. Perception of immigrants as competitors for resources, especially in areas of economic hardship.
  3. View of culturally distinct immigrants as a threat to the mainstream norms and values.
  4. Association between migration and acts of terrorism and crime.
  5. Loss of trust in the ability of policymakers to control inflows of immigrants and manage successful integration.

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