Public Attitudes towards Migrants in Europe

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2016-60-11-58-70

G. Monusova, Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow 117997, Russian Federation (

Acknowledgements. The article is prepared with support of the Russian Humanitarian Science Foundation, project 16-07-00008 “Integration of migrants with different cultural background: perspectives of interculturalism”.

Abstract. Migration to Europe from other countries has emerged as one of the hottest and most emotionally perceived political and social problems. The migration crisis of 2015 makes the issue even more acute. Public attitudes towards migrants are shaped by interaction of multiple factors, and are often explained in the literature from two standpoints. These are potential economic competition between migrants and natives, and tentative conflict based on differences between cultures and values. The first corresponds to the realistic conflict theory, while the second is rooted in the social identity theory. This paper explores perception of migrants across the European countries by the European population with regard to both theories. The main data source for the study is the European Social Survey for 2014 that covers 15 countries. The paper exploits two survey questions. One concerns whether migrants pose a threat to native societies and in which domains (jobs, social benefits, cultural values, crime), the other explores how populations of receiving countries see “ideal” migrants and what requirements (good education, language, Christian background, commitment to the way of life) are put forward, so that migrants could be accepted. The European countries vary significantly in perception of migrants. While Scandinavian countries and Germany demonstrate relatively high degree of tolerance, the population of Austria and the Czech Republic show much less friendly attitudes. In all countries, those who are less educated, having lower incomes and weaker labour market positions are likely to consider migrants as potential rivals for jobs and social benefits. However, the major factor shaping the attitude is the expectation that migrants should be committed to values and the life-style of a receiving country. Another key factor is the level of general trust – respondents from societies with high level of trust have more positive perception of migrants.

Keywords: theory of realistic social conflict, social identity theory, migration, diversity, attitude to migrants, perceived threats of migration, country-level indicators, European Social Survey, social integration 


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For citation:
Monusova G. Public Attitudes towards Migrants in Europe. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2016, vol. 60, no. 11, pp. 58-70.

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