Icelanders have progressively become more positive about immigration and multiculturalism and the country now holds the most liberal views on these matters in Europe, Kjarninn reports. These were among the findings published in the most recent European Social Survey, “an academically driven cross-national survey [that]...measures the attitudes, beliefs and behaviour patterns of diverse populations in more than thirty nations.”
The survey, which began in 2001, was conducted in 23 countries and involved interviews with 44,387 participants, including 880 Icelanders. The most recent findings come from the eighth survey, conducted in 2016, which marked the third time that Iceland had participated. Iceland previously took part in the surveys conducted in 2004 and 2012.
Among the questions asked were whether participants felt that immigrants had a positive or negative impact on the economy, as well as whether they believed that immigrants made the country a better or worse place to live. In the current survey, 69% of Icelanders reported that they believed that immigrants had a positive impact on the economy and 78% reported that they believed that immigrants made Iceland a better place to live. Both of these percentages are by far the highest of all European countries. Ireland and Sweden were, however, not far behind, both reporting around 60% positivity to the same questions.
Another survey question was related to multiculturalism, specifically whether participants believed that the culture of the home country was enriched by immigrants. 78% of Icelanders answered affirmatively to this, which was, again, the highest positive response rate in Europe. The next highest positive response rate came from Finland (77%) and then Sweden (72%).
Austria, Lithuania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Russia were found to be the most hostile toward foreign cultural influence. For instance, only 17% of Russians reported that they believed that immigrants had a positive effect on the cultural life of their country.
Iceland also ranked highly when asked whether or not their government should be generous in granting residence permits to asylum seekers. 56% said yes, and 15% of these reported that they were extremely in favor of this. This is the third highest response rate in Europe. Portugal reported the highest in this category (71%), followed by Ireland (59%).
When Icelanders' responses in this year's survey are compared to those given in 2004 and 2012, it’s clear that Icelanders' attitudes towards immigrants and multiculturalism have become increasingly positive in recent years. In 2004, 68% of Icelanders reported that they believed that immigrants improved the cultural life of the country; 69% affirmed this in 2012.
See the full survey findings here.