Survey: how people differ in opinions about immigration

A study published in 2012 reported that cultural issues outweighed economic issues in how people in Europe in 2002 regarded immigration, and that age and education drive a wide gap in opinion.

The findings help explain Donald Trump’s messaging and to whom he appeals.

A 2002 European Social Survey of 21 countries probed how people felt about immigration and what drove their opinions.

40-45% of respondents preferred to admit none or only a few immigrants, and 55-60% preferred to admit some or many. While small shares, strongly in favor were more numerous than strongly in opposed.

People were more supportive of immigrants from rich European countries than from poor non-European countries, and of immigrants who share the same ethnicity.

Age (under 30 and over 60) and education achievement drove people apart in their opinions. Those younger and those with higher education were much less inclined to oppose immigration. There is a generational gap (younger are more educated).

On both cultural issues and economic issues, younger people and more educated people were less opposed to immigration. Cultural issues were framed in questions such as if the country is better off if everyone shares the same customs and traditions, and if cultural life is undermined or enriched by the presence of immigrants. Economic issues were framed in questions such as whether immigration lowers wages and salaries and if immigrants take jobs away from natives or help create new jobs.

Throughout, cultural issues outweighed economic issues in explaining difference in opinion. Age and education were big factors. How people came down on cultural issues even predicted by a lot how people responded about economic issues.

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