September 24, 2015

What Americans, Europeans think of immigrants

Views of Immigrants in Europe and the U.S.Pope Francis has urged European Catholics to take in some of the thousands of migrants streaming in from Syria and other countries amid the world’s largest refugee crisis on record, and in his address to Congress today he urged leaders to welcome and respect immigrants coming to the U.S.

But just how closely public opinion aligns with the pope’s more benevolent attitude toward immigrants varies greatly. Germans, the British and Americans hold the most positive views of immigrants, while Greeks and Italians hold the most negative views, according to surveys conducted by Pew Research Center in the U.S. and seven European nations.

The United States is home to world’s largest immigrant population (41 million), and is by far the largest economy of any nation surveyed, but views of immigrants are mixed. Half (51%) of Americans this year said immigrants make the U.S. stronger because of their hard work and talents. Meanwhile, 41% said immigrants are a burden because they take jobs, housing and health care. American attitudes toward immigrants are more positive today than they were in 1994, when just 31% of Americans said they’re a strength and twice as many – 63% – called immigrants a burden.

Non-European Immigrants in EuropeWhile the U.S. has more immigrants than the European Union (in the EU, immigrants include only those not born in an EU country), Europe has been disproportionately impacted by a refugee crisis that has accelerated since 2011 due to the war in Syria. In 2014, Europe saw the largest increase (51%) in the share of refugees taken in of any region in the world. (While an immigrant may be anyone who is foreign born, refugees are defined by the United Nations as people who have left their home countries due to a “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”)

Germany is Europe’s economic engine and its most populous nation. It is also home to 6 million immigrants born outside of the EU, the most of any EU country. Attitudes toward immigrants are even more positive there than in the U.S. In 2014, two-thirds (66%) of Germans said immigrants are a strength because of their hard work and talents, while just 29% said immigrants are a burden because they take jobs and social benefits.

However, among the European countries surveyed in 2014, Germans had among the most negative views of immigrants when it comes to crime, with about half (48%) of Germans saying immigrants make crime worse in their country. In addition, Germans were among the most likely to say immigrants are failing to assimilate: About six-in-ten Germans (59%) said immigrants today want to be distinct from German society.

In the United Kingdom, by contrast, views toward immigrants are more uniformly positive. The U.K. is also home to a significant number of immigrants born outside of the EU (5.2 million). About half (52%) said immigrants are a strength, a share that trailed only Germany. At the same time, just 20% in the U.K. said immigrants are more to blame for crime than other groups, among the lowest shares in Europe. On assimilation, about half (47%) said immigrants today want to be distinct from U.K. society.

People in Greece and Italy have among the most negative views toward immigrants of the European countries surveyed. Besides the fact that both nations’ economies have struggled since the recession, they both felt the impact of the first waves of African and Middle Eastern migrants.

In both countries, about seven-in-ten said immigrants are a burden. The nations also have some of the most negative views of immigrants on crime, with about half in Greece (51%) and Italy (45%) saying immigrants are more to blame for crime than other groups.

But attitudes toward immigrants in Italy and Greece diverge on assimilation, with 77% of Italians saying immigrants want to be distinct from Italian society, by far the highest share of the European countries surveyed. By contrast, 48% of Greeks said immigrants want to be distinct from Greek society.

Topics: Europe, Wars and International Conflicts, Immigration Attitudes, Middle East and North Africa

  1. Photo of Jens Manuel Krogstad

    is a writer/editor focusing on Hispanics, immigration and demographics at Pew Research Center.


  1. Jexxx Flexxx2 years ago

    It depends on who is being surveyed and also very dependent on the nationality of immigrants.

    For example, if you interview a adult child of an immigrant family, of course the adult child will hold bias for pro-immigration matters.

    Another example, if we look at Chinese and Indian immigrants in the US on work visas; these people are typically some of the most brilliant scientists, engineers, technicians and medical professionals the world can offer. We need this talent in the US.

    However, if you look at the some 10-20 million immigrants – who largely are in the US illegally – this group migrated to the US for a variety of reasons. Some reasons were to find a better life based on hard work, dedication, commitment to their new home. Many came for the welfare package called DREAM, which provides easy access to unearned wealth.

    In summary, immigrants coming into our country who lack any skills, who do not assimilate to the stronger elements of US work-culture will ultimately weaken the regions where the tend to concentrate, because they essentially transplant the work-culture weakness of the mother country into the US domain. And then tax payers have to carry the burden of supporting the welfare programs the vast majority of these folks lean on, because they didn’t assimilate to language, work ethic, skill level, required to be successful in the US.

    This is why we must have laws and follow laws of immigration, and not manage the country under Marxist Communist Ideals – Barack Obama

  2. Michael Wilson2 years ago

    Yes, Its a shame that no one has analyzed this problem correctly. It seems that those Jamaican Immigrants to the United States who through the English Educational System learn American History, English History, American Culture, English culture realize that their duty is to migrate with their learned information and try and fit in to their new country and culture. Their responsibility is their new country is not to object to the laws, rules, regulations, cultures and customs that are all ready in place, but to fit in, to keep a low profile and try to improve themselves socially and financially with being rude, arrogant and disgusting to their new place of residence, Yes we black Jamaicans realize that we wills be socially and politically unaccepted in our new country of residence, but at lease we can give thanks to be able to live without be watched and intimidated, we know our financial and political limitations so we live within our financial means and we don’t have the gall and nerve to bring out cultural religion and practices to our new country of residence and because we are different we don’t immediately proceed to city hall to object, order, whatever religious customs, laws and edicts were in existence before our arrival to be changed immediately because we come from a different social background. Don’t be amazed the white people like this kind of attitude from the muslims and the Indians but we Jamaicans feel it is rude and forward to be so bold, if we object then the nature thing to do would have been to return to the place we came from. Yes White and Black Americans have been here before us, we realize it is their country and regardless of whether they like or wish to live with one another, it is their right through the battles fought, the hard work and energy they expend for them to enable laws and regulations they see fit, to govern their nation. Though hated black negroes have never been successful in going to white countries through history and telling immigration officers their have no intention of registering or doing as the laws of that nations demand even when we are refugees. Times have changed and now white people are will to accept such rudeness from other nations on the argument that refugees deserve special processing. Where is the rule that the same rule applies to one and all whether the individual is a refugee or not, rich or poor, white or black?

  3. Diana Broadhead2 years ago

    Overpopulation is basic cause of global warming & climate change there are too many of us. I think time to require male refugees that already have 2 children, to have a vasectomy and make contraceptives available for women.

    1. Ulrik Morten Madsen2 years ago

      With a fertility rate of 2.77 syrians are not that extreme. A fertility rate just above 2 should be healthy if you want people to support the elderly. In USA 1.90 and much of Europe well below 2.00. But there is a point in controlling world population. We help the poorest in their hunger dissasters and create more mouths to feed when the next hunger comes 10 years later. We have been doing this for decades.

      1. Warrina2 years ago

        A major reason for Americans’ dislike of immigrants — especially illegal ones — comes from the requirement handed down to the taxpayer to provide welfare benefits, plus housing and educational benefits. The illegal entrant soon discovers that he can remain fairly anonymous in larger communities, and thus he may discover he can readily turn to crime to supply his income. No income tax is owed on criminal activity!

        An ultra-simple solution to this problem would be the FAIR TAX. It is a federal consumption tax on goods and services, and it REPLACES the federal income tax. After all, at the present time illegals ARE paying local and state sales taxes when they make a purchase — but they are skating by on the fed income tax — no wonder so many taxpayers dislike illegals.

        If the FAIR TAX were enacted, the state sales tax collector would gain additional workers to ALSO collect the fed tax, and we could let go of thousands of IRS workers!

        There would be no need to EVER file the annual federal income tax form again!

        Many people bring up the topic of barter — well, you can barter NOW to save on your local and state sales taxes — do you do it on a large scale?? No. Nor would you do it on a large scale with the FAIR TAX.

    2. Mak Ten2 years ago

      People like you are so ignorant of how to achieve population control. Vasectomies on men does absolutely nothing in most cases. Fertility is controlled by the female in mammals people need to get that into their brains.

      On top of this “providing contraception” to 3rd worlders wont work either because they aren’t smart enough to use them correctly.

      The solution is long term contraception like depo or the ring.