22nd Oct 2016

Europeans say they are tolerant, but oppose immigration

  • Not welcome: immigrants are feared particularly in the UK (Photo: European Commission)

Europeans like to think of themselves as being liberal and tolerant, but at the same time oppose immigration, particularly from countries outside the EU, a poll carried out in Britain, France, Germany, Poland and Spain shows.

A majority of the people surveyed said they believed in the EU values of openness and liberalism, while also generally supporting the right of people to migrate within the EU on the search for work, reveals the poll, commissioned by the The Guardian and carried out by ICM between 24 February and 8 March on over 5,000 adults in the five member states.

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But the levels of opposition to migration from outside the EU, particularly at a time when southern countries like Spain may face waves of refugees from north African countries, are high. According to the poll, a quarter of Europeans list non-EU migration as the leading or second threat to Europe's future.

Britain comes out as the most hostile to migration, both within and from outside the EU. Some 47 percent say they are against outer-EU immigrants, half of whom even say they are "strongly hostile", while only 20 percent are in favour. Opponents of intra-EU migration also outnumber supporters by two percent.

The fresh results seem to confirm a poll released last week by Populis, which shows that 48 percent of Britons would consider supporting a new anti-immigration party. Some 52 percent agreed with the proposition that "Muslims create problems in the UK."

Opposition to migration from non-EU countries is also high in France, Spain and Germany. Some 39 percent of Spaniards and French oppose it, along with 37 percent of Germans. Approval rates vary between 30 and 33 percent.

By contrast, Poland is the only surveyed state to be more in favour than against immigration: 46 percent of Poles approve and only a quarter reject the idea of immigration.

In addition to the fear of immigrants, lack of trust in current governments and concerns about jobs and the future of the economy are prevalent in all countries. On average, only 6 percent of the surveyed Europeans say they trust the government, while 46 percent say they do not have very much confidence in it and 32 percent have none at all. Only 9 percent of Europeans think politicians in general act with honesty and integrity.

Except for the Germans, who are witnessing a mild recovery of their economy and are upbeat about the future, most of those surveyed have a gloomy view about the economy. Anxiety is greatest in France, where pessimists outnumber optimists by 46 points, followed by Britain, Poland and Spain.

Support for the euro remains strong in France, Spain and Germany. Poles, however, oppose their country joining the euro, with 48 against and 40 percent in favour.

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