Irish, Spanish & Greek attitudes towards immigrants decline

A new study reveals that residents of Ireland, Spain and Greece experienced the most significant negative changes in attitudes towards immigrants between 2002 and 2010.

The study of 12 European countries, carried out by Ireland’s Limerick University, looked at data from the European Social Survey (ESS) and compared attitudes towards immigrants at three critical moments in time – prior to large immigration flows in 2004; at the height of the economic cycle in 2006; and after the financial crash in 2010.

The results revealed that people in Sweden had the most positive attitudes towards allowing immigrants into their country by 2010, while residents of the UK, Portugal and Greece held the most negative opinions. Ireland and Greece experienced the largest decrease in positive attitudes to allowing immigrants into their countries during that time.

In 2006, 49 per cent of Irish people believed immigration and immigrants were good for their country (the highest proportion of respondents from any of the 12 countries at that time), while by 2010, this number had fallen by more than half to just 23 per cent.

Across the 12 countries combined, the number of respondents who felt immigration was bad for their home country increased by 25 per cent between 2002 and 2010. Likewise, in the same period the number of people who believed immigrants are ‘bad’ for the economy also increased by 10 per cent.

EU immigrant