Posted on October 16, 2015

Europeans Most Negative Toward Immigration

Neli Esipova et al., Gallup, October 16, 2015

Well before the flow of migrants into Europe reached crisis proportions this year, a Gallup study of attitudes toward immigration in 142 countries found people in Europe, on average, were the most negative in the world toward immigration. The majority of residents (52%) said immigration levels in their countries should be decreased. In every other major region of the world, people were more likely to want immigration levels in their countries to either stay at their present level or to increase, rather than to decrease.

These findings are among those featured in the International Organization for Migration’s new report, How the World Views Migration,which is based on Gallup World Poll interviews with more than 183,000 adults across 142 countries between 2012 and 2014. Adults worldwide were asked two questions about immigration: “In your view, should immigration in this country be kept at its present level, increased or decreased?” and “Do you think immigrants mostly take jobs that citizens in this country do not want (e.g., low-paying or not prestigious jobs), or mostly take jobs that citizens in this country want?”

Attitudes Toward Immigration Vary Throughout Europe

While Europe overall may be the most negative region in the world in regard to immigration levels, it’s important to note that the regional average is largely affected by countries with large populations such as the United Kingdom and Russia, where 69% and 70% of their respective publics want immigration levels to decrease.

Britons and Russians are not alone in their attitudes, but they do not speak for all of Europe. Of the 40 countries included in the larger European region, residents in less than half (17 countries) are more likely to want immigration levels decreased than the other two options combined.

In fact, the majority of adults in nearly all of the 10 Northern European countries–except the United Kingdom, Latvia and Lithuania–would like the levels of immigration to stay the same or increase.

Elsewhere in Europe, sentiment is negative, if not more so, in many Mediterranean countries that historically have been the entry points to the continent for many migrants. In fact, adults in Greece–one of the main countries of first arrival on the Eastern Mediterranean route–are among the most likely in the world to want immigration levels decreased, with 84% expressing this view. This sentiment is shared by 56% of residents in Spain, 67% of those in Italy and 76% of those in Malta.