Public Attitudes to Immigration in the Aftermath of COVID-19
22 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2021
Date Written: July 9, 2021
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected public opinion towards immigration? Long-term evidence in Europe and the United States suggests attitudes to immigration are relatively stable and, in some cases, becoming more favorable with high volatility instead in the perceived importance of the issue. However, theoretically a global pandemic could exacerbate people’s fears of outsiders or that migration may contribute to the disease. By contrast, attitudes could remain stable if their distal drivers prove to be robust enough to withstand the shock of COVID-19, which may instead highlight the disproportional importance of migrant workers. We draw from Eurobarometer data from 2014 to 2020 across 28 European countries, weekly national survey data during the outbreak from the US and individual panel data from the UK and Germany to find little systematic change in immigration preferences and no country-level correlation between the observed changes and the severity of the outbreak. Instead, the perceived importance of immigration has consistently and significantly decreased. These findings suggest that, if COVID-19 is to have an impact on attitudes to migration, it is likely to emerge via longer-term means, such as early-life socialization and value change, rather than reactions to the immediate shock of the pandemic.
Keywords: Immigration Attitudes, COVID-19, Europe, United States, Longitudinal Data
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