The European Migrant Crisis and Rise of Right-Wing Populism: Does Political Affiliation Determine Anti-Refugee Attitudes?
The 2015 European Migrant Crisis coincided with an alarming rise of populist right-wing parties campaigning on strong anti-immigrant and anti-refugee platforms. Four years after the Crisis, policymakers must prioritize refugees’ socio-economic integration, while preventing further rises in right-wing extremism – two processes that will likely be inter-dependent. In order to create social and political environments favorable to refugees’ inclusion, integration policies must target both refugees and host communities. A clearer understanding of which European communities oppose refugees is necessary to design such policies effectively. The relationship between political affiliation and feelings toward refugees provides insight into the composition of host communities and, by extension, their resistance to refugee integration. Using data from the 2016 European Social Survey, I examine to what extent political affiliation predicts individual attitudes toward refugees. The results of my analysis suggest there is a significant positive relationship between affiliation with the political right and being anti-refugee. Moderate and centrist Europeans also appear to hold more negative sentiments toward refugees compared to left-wing individuals – suggesting that obstacles to successful integration may be more pervasive than is generally thought. Negative attitudes toward refugees also intensify among groups who live in countries hosting a higher number of refugees, and who are dissatisfied with their current income level. These results highlight the need to develop comprehensive refugee integration policies targeting a broader cross-section of European society, which address the real or perceived losses experienced by host communities.
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