Monday

28th Nov 2022

EU citizens overestimate immigrant numbers, survey shows

EU citizens tend to overestimate the number of immigrants and the unemployment rate in their country, a survey has shown.

Ipsos Mori asked 11,527 people from 14 countries via the internet to estimate nine features of their society.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Migrant woman in Athens: Respondents tended to overestimate the number of foreigners in their country (Photo: Zalmai)

The survey, published on Wednesday (29 October) was conducted in nine EU countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and United Kingdom), Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, and the United States of America.

The result shows the respondents believed that there were far more immigrants in their country than is actually the case.

While 10.8 percent of the population in the surveyed countries was born abroad, the respondents reckoned it was 24 percent.

Italians think 30 percent of their population are immigrants (it is 7%), while Belgians believe 29 percent of those living in their country were born abroad (it is10%).

The surveyed also showed that people overestimate the proportion of Muslims in their country. On average, they think that 16 percent of their compatriots are Muslim, while only 3 percent in the researched countries are.

French respondents estimated that 31 of every 100 people living in France are Muslim, when actually only eight in 100 are. Britons think the proportion is 21 in 100, (but it is five per 100).

The respondents – who were aged between 16 and 64 – also overestimated the proportion of their population which is older than 65, and the unemployment rate in their country.

Of the 14 nationalities, Italians are wrong about these issues most often. They estimate that 48 in every 100 Italians is 65 or over, but only 21 in 100 are.

Italians also think the unemployment rate is 49 percent when the official rate is 12 percent.

And if the respondents are to be believed, teenage pregnancy is much more widespread than it actually is.

In Britain, 16 percent of teenage girls (15- to 19-year-olds) are thought to have a baby annually – in fact the figure is 3 percent. In Germany, people overestimate annual teen pregnancy by a factor of 35. (14%, when the figure is 0.4%)

Scientific experiments have shown that people have difficulty excluding their prejudices when asked to estimate the percentage of a feature in a population. They tend to overestimate the size of an issue which is present in their recent memory.

“People tend to assess the relative importance of issues by the ease with which they are retrieved from memory – and this is largely determined by the extent of coverage in the media”, economist Daniel Kahneman writes in Thinking, Fast and Slow.

EU Commission defends Eurobarometer methodology

The EU executive responds that its public opinion survey is not a statistic, but a snapshot, after concerns were raised over the method that could result in pro-EU bias.

Opinion

A missed opportunity in Kazakhstan

Tokayev received congratulations on his election victory from presidents Xi, Putin, Erdogan, and Lukashenko. However, the phone in the Akorda, Kazakhstan's presidential palace, did not ring with congratulatory calls from Berlin, Paris, London, or Washington.

Agenda

EU's Hungary funds, China, energy, and Frontex This WEEK

In the European Parliament, MEPs will hear from ECB president Christina Lagarde, Kyiv's Vitali Klitschko, and from the three candidates proposed by the EU Commission to be the new boss of EU border agency Frontex.

Sweden says 'no' to EU asylum relocation pledges

Sweden won't make any pledges to relocate asylum seekers under a French-inspired EU plan because there is no legal basis, says Sweden's ambassador to the EU. But Sweden's new right-wing government is also tightening migration rules.

Opinion

A missed opportunity in Kazakhstan

Tokayev received congratulations on his election victory from presidents Xi, Putin, Erdogan, and Lukashenko. However, the phone in the Akorda, Kazakhstan's presidential palace, did not ring with congratulatory calls from Berlin, Paris, London, or Washington.

Sweden says 'no' to EU asylum relocation pledges

Sweden won't make any pledges to relocate asylum seekers under a French-inspired EU plan because there is no legal basis, says Sweden's ambassador to the EU. But Sweden's new right-wing government is also tightening migration rules.

News in Brief

  1. 'Pro-Kremlin group' in EU Parliament cyberattack
  2. Ukraine will decide on any peace talks, Borrell says
  3. Germany blocks sale of chip factory to Chinese subsidiary
  4. Strikes and protests over cost-of-living grip Greece, Belgium
  5. Liberal MEPs want Musk quizzed in parliament
  6. Bulgarian policeman shot dead at Turkish border
  7. 89 people allowed to disembark in Italy, aid group says
  8. UN chief tells world: Cooperate on climate or perish

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. A missed opportunity in Kazakhstan
  2. EU's Hungary funds, China, energy, and Frontex This WEEK
  3. Sweden says 'no' to EU asylum relocation pledges
  4. The 'proof' problem with EU sanctions — and how to fix it
  5. The EU gas cap: will the bottle ever be 'uncorked'?
  6. Enough talk, only rights can eliminate patriarchal violence
  7. Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'
  8. EU Commission to keep Hungary's EU funds in limbo

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us