Public attitudes to immigration in the aftermath of Covid-19: Little change in policy preferences, big drops in issue salience

James Dennison, Alexander Kustov, Andrew Geddes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected public attitudes toward immigration? Long-term evidence in Europe and the United States suggests attitudes to immigration are relatively stable and, in some cases, becoming more favorable with high volatility instead of the perceived importance of the issue. However, theoretically a global pandemic could exacerbate people's fears of outsiders or that migration may contribute to the disease. By contrast, attitudes could remain stable if their distal drivers prove to be robust enough to withstand the shock of COVID-19. We draw from Eurobarometer data from 2014 to 2021 across 28 European countries, weekly national survey data during the outbreak from the United States and individual panel data from the United Kingdom and Germany to find little systematic change in immigration preferences and no country-level correlation between the observed changes and the outbreak's severity. Instead, the perceived importance of immigration has consistently and significantly decreased. These findings suggest that, if COVID-19 is to have an impact on attitudes to migration, it is likely to emerge via longer-term means, such as early-life socialization and value change, rather than reactions to the immediate pandemic shock.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-577
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Migration Review
Issue number2
Early online date27 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

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