July 12, 2016

In views of diversity, many Europeans are less positive than Americans

Americans more likely to say growing diversity makes their country a better place to liveThe surge of refugees to Europe has helped make it a region of increasing cultural diversity and foreign-born populations, just as immigration to the United States has pushed its foreign-born share to near record levels. But a new Pew Research Center survey paints a picture of a Europe that is far less positive about what greater diversity means for many of its countries.

The most common view among the 10 European countries surveyed is that cultural diversity is neither a plus nor a minus in terms of quality of life. In no nation does a majority say increasing diversity is a positive for their country. At most, roughly a third in Sweden (36%), the UK (33%) and Spain (31%) describe growing racial, ethnic and national diversity in favorable terms.

By contrast, more than half in Greece (63%) and Italy (53%) say that growing diversity makes their country a worse place to live. Roughly four-in-ten Hungarians (41%) and Poles (40%) agree. 

Americans have a sharply different view on the same question posed in the Europe survey: “Do you think having an increasing number of people of many different races, ethnic groups and nationalities in our country makes this country a better place to live, a worse place to live or doesn’t make much difference either way?”

About six-in-ten Americans say increasing diversity makes the country a better place to live (58%), compared with just 7% who say it makes the U.S. a worse place to live and 33% saying it doesn’t make a difference either way.

Ideological right less likely than left to say diversity makes the country betterOn both sides of the Atlantic, views on the value of national diversity often divide along ideological lines. Europeans who self-identify as being on the ideological left are significantly more likely than those on the right to say that growing diversity makes their country a better place to live. The gap is greatest in the UK, where views of people on the left differ from those on the right by 24 points. In all, substantial right-left gaps appear in seven of the 10 European countries surveyed.

In the U.S., those who identify as liberal are also much more likely than conservatives to say that growing diversity is good for America. Still, even the 47% share of conservatives who say growing diversity makes the U.S. a better place to live is higher than the share of left-leaning people in many countries in Europe.

More-educated say increasing diversity makes their country a better placeThere is also a substantial education gap on this question in both the U.S. and Europe. In five of the European countries and the U.S., those with more education are more likely to see growing diversity as a positive force. For example, half of British with more than a secondary education say an increasing number of people of different races and ethnicities is good for the UK, compared with only around a quarter of less-educated Brits (26%).

In the U.S, roughly two-thirds of Americans (64%) with some college or more like the idea of a diverse society, compared with only 48% among those with a high school education or less.

NOTE (April 2017): After publication, the weight for the Netherlands data was revised to correct percentages for two regions. The impact of this revision on the Netherlands data included in this blog post is very minor and does not materially change the analysis. For a summary of changes, see here. For updated demographic figures for the Netherlands, please contact info@pewresearch.org.

Topics: Europe, Immigration Attitudes, Political Attitudes and Values, Educational Attainment, Migration

  1. Photo of Bruce Drake

    is a senior editor at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Jacob Poushter

    is a senior researcher focusing on global attitudes at Pew Research Center.


  1. Anonymous1 year ago

    Sir ,
    Could it be that the less educated live in the middle of a larger refugee group & see them as competitors for standing & employment ?

    John Joyce

  2. Henry Johnson1 year ago

    European countries are Nation-States, that are a coalescence of earlier tribes that went into making them up. Most Swedes can tell a Swede, from a Dane, from a Norwegian with ease. It hard for them to think of Afghans and Syrians as being Swedish.

    College educated Americans are the product of institutions heavily influence by former left wing activist. They used continued college deferments as a way of avoiding Vietnam, and went on to become a teaching cadre in many colleges and universities. “Diversity” is a tool to promote egalitarianism, a core concept of New Left ideology of in the 1960’s.

  3. Steve Harris1 year ago

    We are a nation of immigrants so we are used to it.

    That does not mean that with every new wave of immigrants there are no problems.
    All human experiences are personal, so if you are impacted in a negative way by immigrants, you are more likely to have a negative reaction to it.

    Europe is seeing a lot of new immigrants and mostly from impoverished African countries.

    In Switzerland, 72% of everyone in prison is not Swiss. Immigration of course has an impact on them, the Swiss not only see a rise in crime but when you are used to just one culture, in this case Swiss, you have a natural human tendency to want to preserve that culture.

    It should not surprise anyone the Italians and Greeks feel that way and don’t be surprised if they leave the E.U. someday after being burdened by many refugees who need a very long time to acclimate to life in those countries and become productive members of society. The real question is can the countries hold on long enough for that day to come.

    The cost of bailing out these countries has a burden on even powerful government’s like that in Germany and don’t be surprised if you wake up soon and find the German banks are broke and the Italian and Greek banks do the same.

  4. Anonymous1 year ago

    Diversity in communities are there in different forms in almost all countries Arround the world. Success of a strong country with different diversity is built when all the diverse communities accept a uniform law and order system for all of them. Two narrow differences that are the rout cause of today’s terrorist attacks in countries are based on , one little sick diversity group don’t accept the law and order of these country. From the days of Adolf Hitler, sick people who don’t belive in democracy have led many racially based terrorist attacks killing millions in the world. It is on the increase in many countries in recent times. Leading it to a world war between these little violent small sick groups and with almost all democratic countries Arround the world.

  5. Anonymous1 year ago

    Unfortunately, higher education has become a propaganda machine when it comes to ethnic diversity. But having relatively high intelligence does not necessarily mean loving free immigration, not even on average. There is a well-documented left-wing bias in the English-speaking social sciences (see Duarte, Crawford et al.), which is missing in many other countries, such as Hungary or Poland. It was not the case in the past, but now it is. Ideological anti-racism is sacrosanct for many profs in America and UK, and a student who wishes to confront them about it is jettisoning his academic future.

    Besides, lumping racial, ethnic, and nationality together is an insidious attempt to equate old intra-Western immigration with new immigration from the third world. For Americans immigration means Irish, Italians, Ashkenazi Jews – not just Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. For Greeks and Italians, immigration means Middle Easterners and black Africans, not a meagre contingent of Tsarist Russians.

    The average Russian would be quite positive about Ukrainian or even Moldovan immigration, but would get utterly xenophobic about Uzbekistani or Azeri migrants. Why is this aspect almost never considered in major polls?

    To avoid such weird conflations, it would be better to ask, “Do you think having more immigrants from [insert country or region] will make the UK a better place?”, then offer several options. Say, for the UK: Germany, Poland, Greece, Ireland, Pakistan, India, Nigeria, the Caribbean, Australia. I guarantee that the results would be a lot more informative, though people may be reluctant to be accused of racism.

    I saw some British poll which asked, “Do you think you must be white to be English?” While a lot of people would agree with that, saying “yes” makes you sound suspiciously like a racist. Their fears need to be somehow allayed for a more sensible picture.

  6. Anonymous1 year ago

    I have had this conversation dozens of times with educated Americans and have never heard that they think more diversity is good for our country. To the contrary, allowing more and more immigrants into towns and cities where they tend to want to live with others of their same ethnic background changes the social and political dynamic so much that often the original residents become the minority.

    Allow in a hundred thousand or so immigrants per year and encourage them to spread out and assimilate and then you have positive diversity.

  7. Anonymous1 year ago

    Immigration is a key to the economic success of a country. Europe which is built by small countries was the battle ground of the past world wars. Fought mainly on racial differences and still hold deep deferences among them. None of the countries in Europe is large like US and they all started absorbing immigration only recently. Where as US is a country founded and built by immigration.


    Countries like Hungary and Polland score too high against migrants, curiously much people from those countries have migrated to other countries of the EU.

  9. Anonymous1 year ago

    The histories of European nations are quite different from that of the United States, whose
    history is one of vigorous encouragement for major immigration, and land and natural resources which remain a very significant part of that.

    1. Anonymous1 year ago

      Europeans have a much longer history than we do in the USA and frankly the European citizens should take more pride in protecting their historic social well being. You can only dilute the population of a town or city so much before it loses its identity an that would be a shame and a negative in most European countries.

  10. RIPapa1 year ago

    I would like to have seen results from Canada. Were they not included? If not, why?

  11. David M1 year ago

    Americans are a lot less honest than their European counterparts. They say a lot of things they don’t really believe because they want to be perceived as “progressive.”

    1. Anonymous1 year ago

      I can’t tell if you’re a European who doesn’t like seeing America being more progressive on anything or a conservative American who doesn’t like when the general public holds a consensus that doesn’t match your beliefs. But either way, your claims can’t be statistically proven, so your opinion/fantasy remains just that until you set up your own empirical studies to back them up.

      1. Anonymous1 year ago

        Maybe he is a european who don’t like progressive delusions ? It seem that a big majority of us don’t want to look like the USA nowdays in the futur…

  12. Simon Gray1 year ago

    Could you please explain why the percentages in the poll don’t add up to 100%? Thanks.

  13. Anonymous1 year ago

    Americans don’t have experience with islam, they might have another look on diversity if they had lived in neighborhoods with many muslims. Maybe they like diversity even more. Who knows?!

    1. Marvin B Gavorshnik1 year ago

      Lots of Americans have experience with Muslims in areas that are more diverse. The Americans who don’t generally live in smaller towns or rural areas where there lack of exposure to Muslims give rise to their false ideas of Islam.

  14. Anonymous1 year ago

    Fake poll, every study made in Europe showed that the results were much higher

    1. Anonymous1 year ago

      When I mean the results were much higher I mean higher in term of rejection of multiculturalism, this very ideology is a failed experiment whose effects are very bad for the society.

    2. Anonymous1 year ago

      Agree. Add to the fact there is a huge stigma against people who have an opinion that doesn’t conform to the “politically correct”, I’m sure the polls would sway even more. People have been forced to believe in an ideal they might not normally agree with, but the media keeps feeding a narrative (especially social media, cough FACEBOOK cough) that alienates individuals, making them pick a “side”.

      It is curious though, that the countries bringing in the majority of “refugees” (Eastern Indian, we all know what religion is prolific there…) are the population that is having the most problems.

      1. Anonymous1 year ago

        From my experience you can add at least 10 points to the results of this poll to get something closer to european polls, and then you can add another 10 points to get the actual result from the election. Most of the time the non politicly correct opinion is very underestimated in polls.

        It mostly have to do we a non representative sample and also with the fact that the polsters are sometime paid to make the polls fit a certain narrative, a politician in France explain this in his latest book, of course this book was a best seller last year.