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Pew report reveals negative attitudes toward Muslims and refugees among Europeans

Pew report reveals negative attitudes toward Muslims and refugees among Europeans

Categories: Latest News

Wednesday July 13 2016

The Pew Research Center has this week published survey results which show anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe to be rising and more pronounced in eastern European countries.

The results which are presented in the report, ‘Europeans Fear Wave of Refugees Will Mean More Terrorism, Fewer Jobs’, show that “the refugee crisis and the threat of terrorism are very much related to one another in the minds of many Europeans.”

The Pew survey results are drawn from a poll of 11,000 people in 10 European countries prior to the EU referendum.

The results show the correlation between negative attitudes towards Muslims presently living in the ten EU countries and negative attitudes towards refugees. The survey also highlights the correlation between ideological orientation and attitudes towards Muslims, with individuals supporting far right or centre-right parties more likely to hold negative opinions than persons of centre-left or left-wing persuasion. Moreover, the survey results show that Roma and Muslims groups face higher rates of negative perceptions in the ten countries polled compared to Jews.

According to the poll, 52% of Britons think “Refugees will increase the likelihood of terrorism in our country”.

Half or more in five nations say refugees will take away jobs and social benefits. Hungarians, Poles, Greeks, Italians and French identify this as their greatest concern. Sweden and Germany are the only countries where at least half of those polled say refugees make their nation stronger because of their work and talents.

In the UK, 46% of those surveyed said “Refugees are a burden on our country because they take our jobs and social benefits” and 28% said “Refugees in our country are more to blame for crime than other groups”.

Among Europeans, perceptions of refugees are influenced in part by negative attitudes toward Muslims already living in Europe. In Hungary, Italy, Poland and Greece, more than six -in-ten say they have an unfavourable opinion of the Muslims in their country – an opinion shared by at least one-in-four in each nation polled.

The poll shows that unfavourable views of Muslims ranks higher in eastern European countries than in western European countries. Moreover, the countries with Europe’s largest Muslim populations, Germany, France and the UK, are at the bottom of the table with those countries having smaller Muslim populations more likely to hold negative views. The results suggest negative attitudes toward Muslims is not informed by direct experience of Muslims are more likely to result from a visceral hostility.

“In every country polled, the dominant view is that Muslims want to be distinct from the rest of society rather than adopt the nation’s customs and way of life. Six-in-ten or more hold this view in Greece, Hungary, Spain, Italy and Germany. Notably, the percentage saying that Muslims want to remain distinct has actually declined since 2005 in four out of five countries where trend data are available. The biggest drop has been in Germany, where the share of the public expressing this view has declined from 88% to 61%.”

The report observes that “In general, older people and less-educated individuals are more likely to say Muslims want to be distinct.”

The results suggest the ‘Islamisation’ narrative is taking hold in some European countries with Muslims perceived as wanting to remain apart from society.

The Pew results look at views on national identity and views on language or religion as integral to national identity.

The percentage of the public saying that “most” or “many” Muslims in their country support groups like ISIS is less than half in every nation polled. Still, 46% of Italians, 37% of Hungarians, 35% of Poles and 30% of Greeks think Muslims in their countries are favourably inclined toward such extremist groups.

In the UK, almost half of those polled, 48%, said “very few” Muslims “support extremist groups like the Islamic militant group in Iraq and Syria known as ISIS” and 29% said “just some” support IS.

The report finds that opinions of Muslims varies considerably across Europe with half or more in Hungary, Italy, Poland, Greece and Spain having a very or somewhat unfavourable view of Muslims. In Italy (36%), Hungary (35%) and Greece (32%), roughly a third hold very unfavourable opinions. Majorities in the other nations surveyed express positive attitudes about Muslims but at least a quarter in each country have negative views of Muslims.

Overall, attitudes toward Roma are more negative than attitudes toward Muslims. Negative ratings for Muslims have also increased over the past 12 months in the UK (+9 percentage points), Spain (+8) and Italy (+8), and are up 12 points in Greece since 2014. In France – where coordinated terrorist attacks by ISIS at the Bataclan concert hall and elsewhere in Paris in November left 130 people dead – unfavourable opinions are up slightly since last year (+5 points).

In three of the ten countries polled, negative opinions of Muslims tops the rankings; in Hungary, Poland and Spain. Over a quarter of Britons display a negative opinion of Muslims, 28%. It is the lowest level in all ten countries with the other European countries with a large Muslim population showing only a marginally higher level; 29% in both France and Germany. Again, the results suggest a negative opinion of Muslims is not necessarily drawn from direct experience of Muslims with those counties with high rates of negative opinion having some of the smallest Muslim populations; Poland, Italy and Hungary.

The results reinforce the findings of aYouGov poll last June which found Roma and Muslim groups to be the “least tolerated” minorities.

On diversity, the UK seems evenly split on whether diversity has a positive or negative impact with 31% saying it makes the UK ‘a worse place to live’, 34% say it ‘doesn’t make much difference’ and a third saying it makes the country ‘a better place to live’, 33%.

Views on cultural diversity correlates to party political orientation with more people identifying as UKIP supporters likely to express negative views on cultural diversity in the UK compared to Labour supporters. According to the poll, “64% of people who support the right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP) say that a more racially, ethnically and nationally diverse society makes the UK a worse place to live. Only 32% of Conservative Party adherents and 19% of Labour Party supporters share that view.”

The correlation coheres with the results from a YouGov poll in 2015 which found UKIP supporters are most likely to believe in the clash of values between Islam and Britain (89%) and the Lib Dems least likely (38%). Conservatives follow UKIP on 68% and Labour are third on 48%.

Across all three threats – terrorism, the economy, and crime – people who hold unfavourable views of Muslims are much more worried about refugees’ impact on their country. For example, in the UK, 84% of people who give Muslims a negative rating also say that refugees will increase the likelihood of terrorism in their country. Just 39% of Britons with a favourable view of Muslims say the same. On the issue of refugees and terrorism, the gulf between people with positive and negative views of Muslims is wide in all 10 European countries surveyed. This pattern holds in nearly all countries for concerns about refugees’ economic impact and their effect on crime as well.

Reflecting on the survey results in a post-Brexit climate, when minorities, immigration and terrorism and national security featured heavily in referendum campaigning, one has to wonder at the impact negative media coverage of the refugee crisis, Muslims, immigration, and terrorism has on public attitudes. As Michael Cole observes in a blog on Press Gazette, “You probably think you are immune to propaganda. You are not. If it’s done skilfully and for long enough. British people who are delighted to meet fellow Europeans in social or business situations, can become prey to feelings of xenophobia.”



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