WRD 2022: 78% globally agree that people should be able to take refuge in other countries

New Ipsos survey shows greater compassion for forcibly displaced as war in Ukraine wears on.

Key findings

  • Three in four adults on average across the countries surveyed agree with the principle that people should be able to take refuge in other countries to escape war or persecution, and attitudes toward refugees have become more positive on average since last year.
  • Two in three support allowing more people into their country if they are seeking refuge to escape war, violent conflict, or natural disaster or the effects of climate change, but there is less support for those seeking refuge due to personal characteristics such as gender, sexuality or political opinions.
  • Two in five say they have taken action to support refugees in the past 12 months, and nearly half of these were particularly motivated by the Ukraine war.
  • The public is divided on whether governments are currently accepting the right number of refugees or spending the right amount to support refugees. 
  • There are rising levels of support for those seeking refuge from war and persecution and more people are backing refugee causes.

The survey, released today by Ipsos ahead of World Refugee Day on 20 June, reveals a global country average of 78% of people, in the 28 countries surveyed, agreed in principle that people should be able to take refuge in other countries, including their own, to escape war or persecution. Around one in six (16%) disagree with this principle.  Attitudes have become more favourable since last year in most of the countries surveyed, suggesting that the Ukraine crisis has increased public openness to refugees and reversed some of the concerns generated by the pandemic.

The survey, which was conducted online between 22 April and 6 May 2022 with 20,505 adults aged under 74, shows that a majority in all countries surveyed agreed with this principle, with the highest agreement in Sweden (88%), Brazil (86%) and Poland (85%) and the lowest levels of agreement in South Korea (61%), Malaysia (64%) and Turkey (66%).

The backdrop to the survey is that over 100 million people are now forcibly displaced around the world, according to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in light of the Ukraine crisis, which is the fastest displacement crisis in recent times.

The majority support allowing more people into their country if they are seeking refuge to escape war, violent conflict, or natural disaster/the effects of climate change

Nearly two-thirds (a global country average of 64%) support allowing more refugees into their country who are seeking refuge to escape war or violent conflict, with one in ten (11%) opposing.

With climate change effects expected to drive additional displacement in the future, a majority (55%) support allowing more people into their country who are seeking refuge to escape natural disaster or the effects of climate change, with one in seven (14%) opposing this.

When it comes to those seeking refuge due to personal characteristics, however, levels of support are lower. Two in five (41%) support allowing more people into their country if they are seeking refuge due to their race, ethnicity or nationality (19% oppose); two in five (38%) if due to their sexual orientation or gender identity (23% oppose) and the same proportion (38%) if due to their gender (20% oppose); a third (36%) if due to their religion (23% oppose); and a third (35%) if due to their political opinion (24% oppose).

More favourable attitudes towards refugees have been accompanied by action

Two in five (40%) reported that they have taken action to support refugees in the past 12 months – many for the first time, and with nearly half of them being motivated by the situation in Ukraine:

  • The proportion saying they have taken action to support refugees is highest in Poland, which is hosting the largest number of Ukrainian refugees; seven in ten (72%) of those in Poland say they have taken action.
  • Over two-fifths (45%) of those who say they took action would describe their actions as motivated by the situation in Ukraine; two in five (39%) say it was the first time they had ever supported refugees, and a quarter (24%) say they regularly support refugees.

Gillian Triggs, UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, said: “The Ukraine crisis has triggered an outpouring of compassion, support and funding.  We hope this momentum can be maintained, so that all, and not some, refugees have access to protection and receive support. Because everyone has the right to seek safety no matter who they are or where they come from.”

Scepticism towards refugees persists

Not all the findings were so positive for refugees. For example:

  • Over half (54%) agree that most foreigners who want to enter their country as a refugee are there for economic reasons or to take advantage of welfare services (37% disagree).
  • Half (50%) believe most refugees will successfully integrate into their new society, while 40% disagree. A similar number, (47%) think that refugees make a positive contribution to their country (41% disagree).
  • While more than half (56%) disagree that borders should be closed to refugees entirely, a third (36%) agree and think their country cannot accept any more refugees at this time.

Despite increased support for refugees, views are divided on whether governments should provide more support

Three in five (60%) agree that being allowed to work would help asylum seekers to learn their country’s language and integrate (13% disagree), but views on this policy are nuanced.  Almost half (48%) say that giving asylum seekers the right to work while waiting for a decision on their asylum claim could attract people to their country without a genuine asylum claim.

Views are divided as to whether governments are currently accepting the right number of refugees or spending the right amount on support to refugees.

  • Over a third (36%) think their government should accept fewer refugees than it does at present, and a third (33%) believe their government is currently accepting the right number. Just one in six (15%) think their government should accept more refugees.   
  • Two-fifths (41%) think their government should maintain current spending levels on support for refugees around the world, while a quarter (28%) think the government should decrease current spending levels. Only one in six (16%) think spending should be increased.

Trinh Tu, Managing Director of Public Affairs, Ipsos UK said: “The war in Ukraine has galvanised public support for refugees fleeing war or persecution across the 28 countries surveyed, with many people taking personal action to support refugees for the first time. And as we emerge from COVID-19, the public are also more relaxed about keeping their countries’ borders open to refugees.  However, public concerns that most refugees are not genuine persist, as is the public’s lack of awareness and support for those seeking refuge for other reasons. The warming of public attitudes towards refugees presents an opportune moment to address these more persistent beliefs and change hearts and minds.”


About this study

These are the results of a 28-country survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 20,505 adults, aged 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey, and age 16-74 in 23 other countries between Friday, April 22nd 2022 and Friday, May 6th, 2022.

Image credit: Bumble Dee / Shutterstock.com

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