25 April 2018

Rising support for free movement stops at EU migration

Support for free movement in the EU is on the rise, but there’s a catch: enthusiasm is limited to EU migrants.

Oour previous series of infographics illustrates that, even after the outcome of the Brexit referendum, immigration of people coming from both EU member states and developing nations represents one of the most severe concerns of British citizens. Is immigration also a significant concern for most EU citizens? Are Europeans more worried about the internal mobility of EU workers, or of people coming from countries outside the EU?

Eurobarometer waves often include a multi-item question that asks respondents what the EU means to them personally. The first graph displays a longitudinal comparison (2005-2017) of which aspects Europeans tend to associate more frequently with the EU. On average, 46.6% of respondents believe that the freedom to travel, study and work anywhere in the EU embodies the very essence of the EU. Throughout the research period, freedom of movement always ranked higher than other issues often associated with the EU, such as the Euro (36.5%), peace (27.1%), waste of money (23.8%) and bureaucracy (22.2%). Interestingly, in autumn 2017, freedom of movement was chosen by more than one European out of two (52%).

The second figure confirms the scenario discussed above, showing that support for intra-EU migration has risen steadily from autumn 2014 to autumn 2017. If we disregard those who did not answer, we find that more than two thirds of EU citizens had positive views about intra-EU movement of people in November 2017. As illustrated by a Bruegel report, in spite of some country-specific heterogeneity, in the last three years, the enthusiasm for the freedom of movement of EU citizens has increased in each EU member state (with the exception of Romania).

However, considering Europeans’ support for the migration of people coming from countries outside the EU, the picture that emerges from the Bruegel report is quite different.

The third graph compares the support for intra-EU mobility (horizontal axis) with the support for extra-EU migration (vertical axis) in November 2017 (Eurobarometer data). The 45 degree line would correspond to equal support for the two sources of immigration, but all data points are below this line, meaning that support for immigration from other EU countries is stronger than support for immigration from outside the EU in every country.

While the average level of support for the migration of people coming from other member states is 64%, it is only 39% when it comes to extra-EU migration. Only in Portugal, Luxembourg, Spain, Ireland, Sweden and, surprisingly, the UK, the portion of people expressing positive feelings towards this source of immigration figures above 50%. The lowest level (below 30% of respondents) of support for extra-EU immigration comes from people living in eastern and southern EU member states (Latvia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Hungary, Malta, Greece, Bulgaria and Poland).

Photo Credits CC Unsplash: Anete Lūsiņa  feat. Alexander Damiano Ricci


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