A new study has found significantly varied attitudes towards migratory groups among European citizens, with strong preference shown for refugees with a similar religious background, and higher levels of education.
Academics from Stanford, Zurich, and the London School of Economics (LSE) have found that Europeans have a broadly negative view of Muslim economic migrants and are much more welcoming towards Christian refugees.
The study, ‘How Economic, Humanitarian, and Religious Concerns Shape European Attitudes toward Asylum-Seekers’, took the opinions of 18,000 respondents in 15 European nations and quizzed them on a number of factors that might affect their opinion on asylum seekers.
Germany’s Die Welt reports the surprise of the researchers that found, contrary to prevailing stereotypes around Eastern Europe being less welcoming than the West, opinions on these subjects were broadly the same across the continent.
LSE academic Dominik Hangartner said of the findings: “We were surprised at how much the results of the polls throughout Europe were similar. The geographical location of a country or the number of previously recorded refugees is apparently not significant.
The study, which has been published in the Science journal Friday, found those fleeing genuine persecution were more likely to be accepted than economic migrants, and those who had suffered torture in their home nation received a significant boost in welcome.
Muslims were the least welcomed religious group and attracted such strength of feeling that Hangartner described a “strong aversion towards Muslims”.
Europeans showed a slight preference for agnostics, and for Christian migrants beyond that. Like for like, Christians were 11 per cent more likely to be accepted than Muslims with exactly the same background and qualifications.
The report also found that anti-Muslim bias existed among Europeans who identified as both left and right wing, but it was much more pronounced among right-wingers.
Also affecting decisions was educational and professional attainment, with those interviewed preferring migrants who spoke the language of their prospective new home, and with higher qualifications. Teachers and doctors were much more likely to be accepted into society.
Summarising, Hangartner explained: “The respondents favored asylum seekers who were more likely to contribute to the economy”.
Hangartner recognised the obvious problem posed by the research, given the vast majority of so-called refugees are low-skilled Muslims, rather than educated Christians. He said: “Our results show that in the European public eye not all refugees are equal.”
“The public’s strong anti-Muslim bias and preference for highly skilled asylum seekers who can speak the language of the host country points to a mounting challenge for policy-makers, given that most asylum seekers currently originate from Muslim-majority countries and may lack the desired professional and language skills.”
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