A new Chatham House survey of ten European countries offers a sobering look at how widespread the public’s opposition to further Muslim immigration has become:
In our survey, carried out before President Trump’s executive order was announced, respondents were given the following statement: ‘All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped’. They were then asked to what extent did they agree or disagree with this statement. Overall, across all 10 of the European countries an average of 55% agreed that all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped, 25% neither agreed nor disagreed and 20% disagreed. […]
Public opposition to further migration from Muslim states is especially intense in Austria, Poland, Hungary, France and Belgium, despite these countries having very different sized resident Muslim populations. In each of these countries, at least 38% of the sample ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement. […]
Our findings also reveal how, across Europe, opposition to Muslim immigration is especially intense among retired, older age cohorts while those aged below 30 are notably less opposed. There is also a clear education divide. Of those with secondary level qualifications, 59% opposed further Muslim immigration. By contrast, less than half of all degree holders supported further migration curbs.
The results of the survey are worth exploring in full, revealing some telling demographic differences in the public’s attitudes. Apart from age and education, geography seems to be a key cleavage, with rural residents notably more opposed than those living in cities or small towns.
As for the country-by-country breakdown, opposition to Muslim immigration runs from a high of 71 percent in Poland to a low of 41 percent in Spain. Unsurprisingly, most of the countries registering the strongest opposition have suffered major terrorist attacks or been at the center of the refugee crisis:
But the results may be most striking for how they cut across traditional lines, revealing sizable support for the survey’s maximalist position—an opposition to all further Muslim immigration—among self-professed liberals and conservatives alike. Lots of people are thinking the unthinkable these days.
Since the survey was conducted, President Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries has inflamed an already contentious debate, and earned rebukes from leaders in the UK, France, and Germany. If the latest numbers are any indication, though, the very same sentiments animating Trump’s travel ban—anxiety about Muslim immigration and a desire to severely curtail immigration flows—are widespread in the populations of those countries. European leaders would be wise to internalize this reality and seek new ways to respond to their constituents’ concerns, rather than rejecting them outright.