Refugee Crisis Fuels European Fears On Terrorism

A Pew Research Center study shows negative views extend beyond security considerations to economic concerns.
The Pew Research Center study finds many Europeans believe refugees are linked to terrorism and that only a minority of those surveyed believe diversity makes their country a better place to live.
The Pew Research Center study finds many Europeans believe refugees are linked to terrorism and that only a minority of those surveyed believe diversity makes their country a better place to live.
Handout . / Reuters

The resurgence of nationalist sentiment that catalyzed Britain’s EU referendum is prevalent in other European nations, Pew research released on Monday shows. It’s linked overwhelmingly to fears of increasing refugee populations, terrorism and resistance to cultural diversity, according to the survey of people in 10 different European countries.

Pew found that majorities in eight nations researchers questioned believed refugees increased the likelihood of terrorism in their country. This sentiment echoes those expressed in the wake of the attacks on Paris in November and Brussels in March, at a time when there had been a surge in arrivals of migrants and refugees across European Union-member countries.

“The criticism of the way the EU has handled the refugee crisis has penetrated all the way to Sweden,” said Bruce Stokes, director of global economic attitudes at Pew. “That shows how deeply upset people across Europe are with the handling of this issue.”

The negative perceptions extend beyond security considerations to economic concerns ― 50 percent or more of respondents in half of the nations polled believe refugees will take away jobs and social benefits. When it comes to crime, the link to refugees is far less salient. However, almost half of respondents in Italy and Sweden believe that “refugees are more to blame for crime than other groups.”

Pew Research Center

Meanwhile, well over half of Europeans in Hungary (72 percent), Italy (69 percent), Poland (66 percent), and Greece (65 percent) have unfavorable views of Muslims living in their country. In every country polled, the dominant view is that Muslims want to be distinct from larger society, rather than to adapt to European customs.

However, Europeans seem split when it comes to explicitly associating these groups with the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS. Fewer than half of respondents in every country polled agreed with the statement that “Muslims in our country support extremist groups like the Islamic militant group in Iraq and Syria known as ISIS.” But in half of the countries polled, a quarter or more of respondents believed that many or most Muslims do support the extremist group.

These findings highlight an ideological divide in Europe. People with a conservative viewpoint in 9 of the 10 countries surveyed had a more unfavorable view toward Muslims. The disparity between people with right- and left-wing views in Greece and Germany, for instance, spans 30 or more points.

Pew Research Center

This ideological divide also translates to perceptions of a diverse society. Only a minority of European respondents in all nations surveyed believed diversity made their country a better place to live.

Those who hold conservative views are significantly more likely than those with more liberal views to say that growing diversity makes their country “a worse place to live”. When broken down by nationality, over half of Greeks and Italians and about 4 in 10 Hungarians and Poles said growing diversity is detrimental.

Europeans’ views on diversity are in contrast to those Americans held in a Pew study released in March. Over half of Americans said having “more people of many different races, ethnic groups, and nationalities” makes the U.S. a better place to live, according to the survey. Only 7 percent of Americans said a diverse society makes life worse.

The Pew Research Center study was conducted from April 4 to May 12 among 11,494 people in Europe and the United States. The margin of error ranged from 3.1 to 4.6 percent.

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