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.