Research so far has predominantly focused on identifying the types of refugees that citizens across the EU and the US are more likely to welcome. While this work has helped us to uncover patterns of discrimination towards outgroup members, it has failed to inform us what kind of refugee policy is most likely to gain support. Our project addresses this shortcoming by focusing on what refugee policy Europeans want. We study attitudes in respect to the EU-level allocational regime for the refugees, level of border control, right to work, freedom of movement and the cost of the policy. We also test the overlap between attitudes and behaviour in respect to refugee policy and its openness. Finally, we look at the effect of media framing (negative security and welfare concern frames and positive humanitarian frame) as well as the effect of the war in Ukraine on the attitudes and behaviours in respect to refugee policy preferences.
Our data come from an on-line representative survey of 10 EU Member States (Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia and Denmark) composed of three key elements: i) a conjoint experiment, where respondents must (force)select a policy profile; ii) a real-effort task to approximate behaviours in respect to refugee policy with a donation question towards a refugee-related cause; iii) a panel-survey in Poland, Hungary and Germany, where the onset of the war in Ukraine is treated as a natural treatment for attitudes and behaviour towards refugees.
Our core finding is that there is a division in respect to the allocation of refugees across the EU, where Member States for whom the so-called “Smart Solidarity” has been designed by the European Commission are either not interested in this solution or would rather settle with the status quo. On the other aspects of refugee policy, we see a strong convergence, with respondents across Member States keen on observing an increased level of border control, a more liberal approach to access to the labour market for refugees and, somehow paradoxically, a desire to limit their freedom of movement. We also observe a high correlation between policy preferences and a behaviour towards refugees (a donation), as well as a strong ideological base to both the attitudes and behaviour. Finally, while humanitarian media messaging encourages donations to a refugee-related cause, security and welfare burden messaging have no significant effect. War in Ukraine does not affect EU-level policy preferences (allocation of refugees and border control), but it does impact preferences for domestic refugee policy. Overall, our results provide rich, policy-relevant evidence on the opportunities and challenges to building an EU-level consensus on refugee policy in the context of an on-going inflow of refugees.