Europe is rejecting the idea that multi-culturalism is beneficial to society following a year in which the migrant crisis and Isis-inspired terror attacks have boosted anti-Muslim sentiment across the continent, a new Europe-wide survey has shown.
The data from Pew Research, the leading non-partisan US social attitudes survey company, will serve as another sharp warning to Europe’s political elites about the growing strength of grassroots sentiment over the migration issue.
It also highlights Europe’s stark political and geographical divisions, with Hungary, Poland and Greece all showing themselves to be fiercely anti-Muslim, while a rising base of Right-wing parties are hugely more anti-Muslim than supporters on the European Left.
When asked if diversity had made their country “a better place to live” only 33 per cent of Britons agreed, mirroring sentiment across the EU where more than 70 per cent of people in 10 EU countries surveyed said multi-culturalism made their country either a “worse” place to live, or made “no difference” at all.
After a year in which Isil-backed terrorists attacked Paris and Brussels, in eight of the 10 European nations surveyed, more than 50 per cent of people said they felt that incoming refugees increased the likelihood of terrorism in their country.
The survey uncovered lingering suspicions among non-Muslim Europeans that a portion of their Muslim population harbours sympathies for so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), or Da’esh.
Even in the relatively more “tolerant countries” – Germany, Netherlands, UK, and Sweden – fewer than half of respondents believed “very few” Muslims supported Isil, with the majority saying that at least “some” Muslims did sympathise with the terrorists.
In the past year unfavorable opinions of Muslims have increased in the UK by 9 percentage points, in Spain by 8 per cent and in Italy and Greece – where migrants have been arriving – negative views of Muslims are up by 8 per cent and 12 per cent respectively.
“Attitudes toward Muslims and refugees loom large in the European political debate, and this is reflected in current public opinion. Majorities in Greece, Hungary, Italy and Poland express negative attitudes toward both Muslims and refugees,” the survey authors wrote.
“Even in countries with more positive views, such as Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands, at least half believe Muslims do not want to integrate into the larger society and majorities express concerns that refugees increase the chance of domestic terrorist attacks.”
The Pew Research, drawn from surveys conducted in April-May this year, covered 10 countries that account for 80 per cent of the European Union population and 82 per cent of the EU’s gross domestic product.
The data comes at febrile moment in European politics with Austria poised to re-run its presidential election on October 2, potentially opening the door to the election of a far-Right candidate from the Freedom Party who lost the original contest last May by less than one percentage point.
At the same time eastern EU countries are in open revolt against German-led calls for a more tolerant attitude to EU migrants, with Hungary holding a referendum on October 2 to ask its population if they want to accept EU-imposed migration quotas in a move designed to highlight opposition to Brussels.
The Pew Survey also revealed the depth of Right-Left political divisions in Europe over attitudes to Muslims and immigrants, with sympathisers of Right-wing parties markedly more concerned than voters on the Left.
In Britain some 64 per cent of Ukip supporters believed a more diverse society made the UK a “worse” place to live, compared with only 32 per cent of Conservative Party supporters and 19 per cent of Labour Party supporters.
This basic trend was mirrored across Europe with 51 per cent of French National Front supporters believing diversity is bad for France, compared with just 34 per cent of mainstream conservative Republicans and 11 per cent of Socialist Party adherents.
In Germany, which took in nearly one million migrants last year, some 62 per cent of people who support the Right-wing party Alternative for Germany (AfD) believe increased racial diversity was bad for Germany, a number echoed in Sweden where 65 per cent of supporters of the anti-immigrant Swedish Democrats believed the same.