Who is reshaping public opinion on the EU's migration policies? (July 2019)



Since Europe experienced its 2015/6 large-scale arrivals, immigration has never been so high on the political agenda of the European Union and several of its Member States. News of these arrivals spread through Europe’s fragmented media and political landscape. This discussion brief aims to capture the changes and drivers of public opinion on EU migration policy since 2015/6. To what extent have the media, fake news, national politicians, EU officials and migrants themselves reshaped public opinion? What are the differences across Europe and the implications for EU policymaking?

The desk research for this discussion brief took advantage of the explosion in public opinion research in recent years. The wide geographical coverage of these studies fill the major gap in research on media and public opinion on immigrants in Central Europe. Changes and drivers of EU public opinion have been identified through multivariate analysis of the European Social Survey and Eurobarometer as well as recent literature reviews, for example thanks to the Observatory of Public Attitudes to Migration. The increase in innovative survey experiments and panels allows researchers to better understand public decision-making and the effects of (dis)information. Several EU-wide reviews have been commissioned of the recent migration media coverage, while investigations by practitioners have revealed the importance of media ownership and social media campaigns.

The Discussion Brief begins with a review of the EU agenda and state-of-knowledge on the recent changes on public opinion on EU migration policy. The main section then investigates the relative importance and dynamics of the key drivers of public opinion: values and socialisation, political preferences, personal experiences, media framing and salience, the dynamics on social media, the key decision-makers behind media content and the key actors in the debate. The Brief concludes with the implications of these recent changes in public opinion for Europe’s societies and role in the world.