The results of a European opinion poll, which seeks to establish public perceptions of migration in four EU member states – Italy, Spain, France and Germany – reveal both similarities in general attitudes towards migrant integration and differences among the four nations when it comes to possible measures to stem the flow of migrants.
Although public opinion seems to be divided on the issue of integration of immigrants, in three of the four countries – Italy, Spain and Germany – the survey reveals an open attitude of the majority, with only France showing a predominance of the view that legal and planned migration needs to be strengthened in order to meet labour market needs. On the other hand, in all four countries there is an attitude in favour of setting up a naval blockade on the coasts of southern Europe to prevent illegal flows of migrants. While most supporters of such a measure are reported in the poll in Germany, a landlocked country, in Italy the discussion seems to be controversial on this issue.
Germans, Italians and Spaniards more open than the French about integrating immigrants
In all four countries, public opinion is divided on the question of whether immigrants should be given more help to integrate in these countries. While Germans, Italians and Spaniards are more open, with a desire to help immigrants they live with in the same city to better integrate into society and the labour market, the French show a preference for a closed attitude towards migrant integration.
Half of the respondents in Italy and Spain in the survey were in favour of better integration of immigrants into society and the labour market, while in Germany the percentage of those expressing an open attitude is even higher, at over 50% of those questioned.
At the same time, in France, the percentage of open-minded respondents is, according to the survey, 41%, the predominant position being that there should be stronger control over immigration or that no measures should be taken to integrate immigrants and that the authorities should think mainly of the native French, German, Spanish or Italian population. A total of 45% of French people opted for these options in the questionnaire.
The highest percentage of respondents who preferred not to express an opinion was also in France – 14%, with the Germans at the other end of the scale at 6%. The percentages recorded in Italy and Spain among those who did not wish to express a position are roughly equal – 9% and 8% respectively.
High consensus on controlled migration strictly to meet labour market needs; exception – Germany
At the same time, Italians, French and Spanish show a relatively high consensus on the need for legal and managed migration to meet labour market needs in these countries. Most respondents who said they were in favour of legal and planned immigration to meet labour market needs were registered in Spain – 59% of all respondents, followed by Italian respondents – 56% and French respondents – 50%. The majority of Germans surveyed – 60% – were against, with the percentages in favour and undecided being 24% and 16% respectively.
An interesting aspect revealed by the opinion poll is that, except for the Germans, most of the respondents who said they were in favour of planned migration were in the elderly category – in France and Italy and adults – Spain. At the other end of the scale, in Germany, the highest percentages of those opposed to planned migration are among adults and the elderly (63% and 65% respectively).
The French – not open to financial support for African countries; on Turkey only the Spanish agree
Another issue addressed in the opinion poll was the possibility of EU public investment in African countries to support their development and reduce waves of migrants. In all four countries, the survey shows a majority positive attitude on this issue, but with the exception that a significant percentage of respondents in France also did not want to express an opinion on this issue.
In Germany, Spain and Italy, the percentage of those in favour of such possible measures is equal and exceeds half the number of respondents – 53%, while in France it is 42%. Only 17, 19 and 23 percent of German, Spanish and Italian respondents respectively did not wish to express an opinion. It is worth noting that the percentage of French respondents who are undecided on this issue is 29%, equal to those who said they were against investing in African countries.
As for the EU’s continued financial support to Turkey to keep refugees on its territory, the survey shows that three countries are predominantly negative, with only the Spanish being an exception. The highest percentage of respondents who said they were against the issue was in Germany – 49%, followed by France – 41%. In Italy, the percentage of those who believe that the EU’s support to Turkey for refugees should not continue is 40%, and in Spain – 33%.
At the same time, all four countries – Italy, France, Germany and Spain – are in favour of a naval blockade to stop the waves of migrants arriving on the southern European coast.
The highest percentage of respondents who would agree with such a measure is in Germany – 54% – (a landlocked country in southern Europe), with lower but significantly high percentages of over 50% among the French and Spanish (52% in both countries).
In Germany, 29% were against such a measure, in Spain 27% and in France 22%.The survey reveals serious controversy in Italy on this issue, with opinions divided, with 46% in favour and 36% against. While the difference between those for and against in the first three countries is 30% in France and 25% in Spain and Germany, in Italy the difference is only 10%.
No solution emerges for the waves of migrants from Belarus
The survey also looked at the issue of waves of migrants and refugees frequently forcing their way across Poland’s border into Belarus. However, none of the solutions put forward in the poll to stop these waves met with a majority opinion.
In all four countries, more than 40% of respondents were in favour of a combination of solutions that did not involve relocating migrants to their countries of origin, or relocating and sharing migrants between EU Member States.
Very few of those questioned would agree with building a wall on the border between Poland and Belarus. There are also low percentages of those who agreed with the solution proposed in the survey that migrants and refugees should be resettled in different EU countries, but not in their own country, i.e. France, Germany, Italy or Spain. Also, the number of respondents who say migrants should be let into Poland and Germany is low in all four countries. The solution of forcibly returning them to Belarus is also not favoured by many Germans, Italians, French or Spaniards.
The survey was conducted between 15 December 2021 and 7 January 2022 on a sample of 1000 Italians, 1027 French, 1002 Germans and 1068 Spaniards, citizens over 18 years of age, using the CAWI – Computer Assisted Web Interview method. The margin of error is 3.1%.