Political leaders have reacted to Donald Trump’s executive order on a pause in entries from seven nations with alarm — but perhaps they should be more alarmed at their own electorates. Think tank Chatham House conducted polls in ten core European nations, and found wide majority support in eight of the ten for a total bar on immigration from all majority-Muslim nations — and not just a temporary pause, either. The overall approval for such a policy across all ten nations is better than 2-1 (via Francis X. Rocca):
Amid these competing views, where do the public in European countries stand on the specific issue of Muslim immigration? There is evidence to suggest that both Trump and these radical right-wing parties reflect an underlying reservoir of public support.
Drawing on a unique, new Chatham House survey of more than 10,000 people from 10 European states, we can throw new light on what people think about migration from mainly Muslim countries. Our results are striking and sobering. They suggest that public opposition to any further migration from predominantly Muslim states is by no means confined to Trump’s electorate in the US but is fairly widespread.
In our survey, carried out before President Trump’s executive order was announced, respondents were given the following statement: ‘All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped’. They were then asked to what extent did they agree or disagree with this statement. Overall, across all 10 of the European countries an average of 55% agreed that all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped, 25% neither agreed nor disagreed and 20% disagreed.
Majorities in all but two of the ten states agreed, ranging from 71% in Poland, 65% in Austria, 53% in Germany and 51% in Italy to 47% in the United Kingdom and 41% in Spain. In no country did the percentage that disagreed surpass 32%.
Just what is Chatham House? Its official name is actually The Royal Institute of International Affairs, and the University of Pennsylvania ranked it as the most prominent think tank outside the US. It’s not a fly-by-night organization nor one oriented to support this particular position.
Chatham House also created this graphic to demonstrate the wide and strong appeal among European nations for ending migration. Note too that the question asked is both unambiguous and decidedly not time limited, as Trump’s EO is:
Even for the two nations which did not have majority support for a ban (Spain and the UK), clear pluralities exist in support of that policy. The chart highlights one of the more striking features of the study, which is the very low levels of opposition to a ban. Only in Spain does it cross over the 30% mark, and it crosses over 20% in only two more nations — the UK and Italy. Support for a ban crosses the 60% mark in half of the nations.
But what does that mean politically? Let’s look at France, where voters are in the second round of their presidential election process. In the Chatham House study, a ban on migration from Muslim-majority nations polls at 61/16. One would guess that this would be a huge boon to Marine LePen, the right-wing candidate who opposes continuing migration. And yet …
France: Second round of Presidential election, Ifop poll:
— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) February 8, 2017
Bear in mind that this is just one poll among many, but it fits the pattern:
— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) February 7, 2017
The polls could be missing this, but as Francis Rocca told me on Twitter, it’s hard to imagine that there are this many “shy” LePen voters. It may be that this is not yet an issue that’s moving the electorates in Europe, but … it’s hard to imagine that will last for long if their governing class ignores these sentiments indefinitely. This looks like the kind of powder keg that could radically change the political landscape — and in fact might be much more dramatic than anything we’ve seen here in the US.
Update: Chatham House also offered a demo breakdown on Twitter:
Opposition to Muslim immigration is especially intense among retired, older cohorts while those aged below 30 are less opposed, survey shows pic.twitter.com/DPZXjedSDy
— Chatham House (@ChathamHouse) February 7, 2017
“Less opposed” in this case still means a 44/27 plurality in favor of a ban. The consistency of support for a ban across all demos is remarkable.