Will Racke, DCNF
Immigration is the number one concern for people across Europe, with terrorism following closely behind, according to a wide-ranging poll released Friday.
In nine European countries — Great Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Greece and Italy — people believe the biggest problem facing the European Union (EU) is immigration, a YouGov poll found. The only two countries where immigration was not the top EU concern were Poland and Spain, where terrorism and unemployment took the top spots, respectively.
The poll of 11 countries was conducted April 18 – 30 and included the six largest EU member states — Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland — along with Denmark, Sweden, Greece, Finland and Lithuania to ensure a broad representation of different parts of the continent. It found a striking uniformity among the residents of EU countries with regard to what they see as the bloc’s biggest problems.
In all but two of the countries polled, immigration and terrorism were thought to be the two most pressing issues facing the EU. The exceptions were Spain, where unemployment took the top spot, and Italy, where joblessness was the second most important problem. Both countries have some of the highest youth unemployment rates in Europe.
Concerns over mass immigration began to spread in the wake of the 2015 migrant crisis, when millions of refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants began pouring into the EU from North Africa and the greater Middle East. Some EU nations — most prominently Germany — unilaterally ignored EU migration rules and opened their borders to the migrants. The handling of the crisis touched off a political firestorm over immigration and aided the rise of populist and nationalist parties in several countries.
Concerns over mass immigration demographic change, long ignored by Europe’s center-left political class, have moved vast swaths of the EU electorate to the right, said Chatham House senior fellow Matthew Goodwin.
“There is a new issue agenda. Europe is moving rightwards,” he wrote on Twitter Friday.
“Unless the centre-left finds something meaningful to say it will be cast aside, not least because these issues will only likely become more important to voters,” Goodwin added, referring to migration, ethnic change, and the “unresolved refugee crisis.”
The YouGov poll surveyed about 1,000 people in each country as a part of the EU’s “State of the Union” study. Read the full results here.
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