Global Majority Supports Principle of Refugee Resettlement

New Ipsos Study for World Refugee Day Also Highlights Skepticism About Genuineness of Refugees and Their Integration in Host Countries

The author(s)

  • Nicolas Boyon Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
Get in touch

Washington, DC — A new Ipsos global study conducted to mark World Refugee Day finds that a majority across 26 countries that people should have the right to seek refuge from war or persecution. However, broader opinions on refugees still include negative attitudes, and there are some signs that some of them could be hardening when compared with two years ago. The survey, conducted online among adults under age 74 across 26 countries, finds that a majority of them are skeptical about whether those coming into their country as refugees are genuine refugees and about the ability of refugees to successfully integrate into society.

The study shows that:

  • Six in ten (61%) believe in the fundamental right of people to seek refuge to escape war or persecution, although a quarter (25%) disagree.
    • In most countries, there is majority support in favor of the right to refuge in that country, with the exception of Japan, Hungary, and France, where people are less likely to agree (23%, 43% and 43% respectively).
    • Large majorities in many Latin American countries, including Argentina (74%), Chile (73%), Peru (70%) and Mexico (67%) agree that people should have the right to seek refuge. Agreement is lower in many European countries, including not only Hungary and France, but also Belgium (50%) and Germany (57%).
    • Six in ten Americans (62%) agree that people should be able to take refuge in other countries, including in the United States, to escape from war or persecution. Agreement varies greatly based on the level of education: 76% of those with a college degree agree vs. 52% of those with no more than a secondary education.
  • Slightly more people agree that their country can accept refugees at this time. While 40% of people say that their country’s borders should be closed to refugees entirely, 46% disagree with this statement. Though there has been little change since 2017 in the percentage of those agreeing that their borders should be closed to refugees (39%), the proportion of people disagreeing with this statement (i.e. keeping borders open) has fallen five points from 51% to 46%.
    • Adults surveyed in India (64%), Turkey (59%), Sweden (51%) and Serbia (51%) are most likely to agree that their country’s borders should be closed to refugees entirely, compared with those in Canada (29%) Brazil (28%) and Chile (28%) who are among the least likely to advocate a closed-borders policy.
    • Countries, where views have hardened most about closing their borders since 2017 include Mexico (up 16 points from 22% to 38%) and Peru (up 15 points from 25% to 40%), which have both seen an increase in people seeking asylum from neighboring countries according to UNHCR.
    • In Serbia, agreement has also increased 13 points from 38% to 51%. In contrast, the desire to see their borders closed has fallen in neighboring Hungary (down 17 points from 61% to 44%) and in Poland (down 6 points from 45% to 39%) – perhaps reflecting the hard-line stance the Polish and Hungarian governments have taken on restricting entry to refugees.
    • Americans are about as welcoming towards refugees as the global average, with under half of Americans (46%) disagreeing that the country’s borders should be closed to refugees. However, fewer Americans (36%) agree that borders should be closed to refugees than the global average, a decline of 4 points since 2017.
  • Globally, just over half of people (54%) are doubtful that people coming to their claiming to be refugees really are genuine, instead believing that they are coming to their country for economic reasons or to take advantage of welfare service. This number has increased slightly – just two percentage points – since 2017. Three in 10 people disagree – a fall of five percentage points from two years ago – suggesting rising doubt about refugees motives for trying to enter the country.
    • Skepticism about the authenticity of refugees’ intent is most prevalent in India (70%), Turkey (69%), and South Africa (66%). In contrast, those surveyed in Japan (37%), Brazil (40%), Canada (45%), Spain (45%) are least likely to question whether refugees in their country are genuine.
    • Countries where skepticism has grown most significantly since 2017 include Sweden (up 12 points from 38% to 50%), Mexico (up 10 points from 49% to 59%), Spain (up eight points from 37% to 45%) and Serbia (up eight points from 42% to 50%). Perhaps driven by high levels of refugees and other emigrants to these countries.
    • In contrast, countries where agreement levels have fallen are Hungary (down 11 points from 66% to 55%) and Russia (down seven points from 71% to 64%) – again perhaps reflecting government action to restrict refugees coming to the country and alleviating people’s concerns on the issue.
    • In the United States, just under half (49%) agree that refugees coming to the country are not genuine while just over a third (32%) disagree. Skepticism towards refugees’ intentions has decreased slightly in the U.S. since 2017. It is far more prevalent among men (56%) than among women (42%) and among those aged 50 and older (55%) than among those under the age of 35 (42%).
  • People are less convinced about the ability of refugees to successfully integrate into society than two years ago. Globally, two in five (38%) agree that refugees will integrate successfully into society — a fall of five points since 2017. However, views on the matter remain fairly mixed and 47% disagree (compared with 44% in 2017).
    • Countries that are most optimistic about refugees successfully integrating into society are India (68%), Argentina (58%) and Saudi Arabia (55%).
    • At the other end of the spectrum, countries whose citizens are most likely to disagree that refugees will successfully integrate are in South Korea (67%), Sweden (64%) and Turkey (63%).
    • Views on this issue have shifted most significantly (by at least 10 points) in Serbia, Hungary, Mexico, Peru and France where people are less likely than in 2017 to believe refugees can successfully integrate into society.
    • Americans are more likely than not to be optimistic about refugees’ integration with 44% who agree that refugees will successfully integrate vs. 34% who disagree. However, the level of agreement has dropped four points since 2017. There is a 23-point gap in agreement between those with a college degree (57%) and those who have never been to college (34%).


  • 18,027 online adults aged 19-74 in South Korea, 18-74 in the United States, Israel, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa and Turkey, and ages 16-74 in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Sweden.
  • Fieldwork was conducted from April 19 - May 3, 2019.
  • Where results do not sum to 100 or the ‘difference’ appears to be ±1 more/less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses or the exclusion of don't knows or not stated responses.
  • The precision of Ipsos online polls are calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to ±3.5 percentage points and of 500 accurate to ±4.85 percentage points. For more information on the Ipsos use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website.
  • Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Nicolas Boyon
Senior Vice President, US
Public Affairs
+1 646 309-4879

About Ipsos

Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. Ipsos ranks fourth in the global research industry.

With offices in 89 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across five research specializations: brand, advertising and media; customer loyalty; marketing; public affairs research; and survey management.

Ipsos researchers assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media and they measure public opinion around the globe.

Ipsos has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1999 and generated global revenues of €1,749.5 million in 2018.

The author(s)

  • Nicolas Boyon Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs