Canadians share most favourable view of immigrants, global study finds

Canadians have the most favourable opinion of immigrants among the world’s top migrant destination countries, viewing newcomers as a strength rather than a burden, says a new international survey.

The report by Washington-based Pew Research Center also found Canadians are the least likely to blame immigrants for crime or an increased risk of terrorism, among the respondents in 18 countries that together host half of the world’s migrants.

“Canada is on the top of the list in believing immigration is a plus to the country,” said Jeffrey Reitz, director of ethnic, immigration and pluralism studies at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, who is not involved in the survey.

“It also shows Canada is less polarized than the other countries on immigration as all Canadian political parties are on board with immigration. Even those on our right are more positive about immigration than the left in many other countries.”

Sixty-eight per cent of Canadian respondents in the survey believed immigrants make the country stronger while only 27 per cent said newcomers are a liability because they take jobs and social benefits, said the report released Thursday.

Canada was followed by Australia, where 64 per cent of respondents favoured immigration; the United Kingdom and Sweden, both at 62 per cent; and with Japan, at 59 per cent, rounding up the top five. In Mexico, currently a destination and transit country for tens of thousands of migrants fleeing violence in Latin America, 57 per cent of people welcome migrants while 37 per cent considered them a burden.

In six European Union member states surveyed, public perception about immigration has shifted since 2014 after the arrival of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers. In Greece, Germany and Italy, the share of adults in favour of immigrants dropped significantly.

“In most countries surveyed, those on the left of the ideological spectrum are more positive about immigration’s impact on their country than those on the right,” said the 24-page report.

“In many countries surveyed, those with higher levels of education, younger adults, and those with higher incomes are more likely to say immigrants make their countries stronger because of their work and talents.”

The survey interviewed 19,235 people in 18 countries, including 1,056 Canadians, with five questions focusing on public attitude towards immigrants, integration, crime, terrorism and deportation. The Canadian portion of the survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

In Canada, people across the political spectrum share positive views of immigrants, with 81 per cent of left-leaning Canadians and 65 per cent of self-described conservative respondents in favour of newcomers. The 16 percentage-point gap was the second narrowest among the 18 countries.

In Greece, where the political gap was the narrowest, at just 13 percentage points, people were overwhelmingly opposed to immigration, with just 6 per cent of conservative respondents and 19 per cent of leftists in favour of migrants.

However, public attitudes are mixed on immigrants’ willingness to adapt to their new country’s customs and way of life, said the survey.

People in Japan, Mexico, South Africa, the United States, France and Sweden are more likely to say immigrants are inclined to integrate into their society, while their counterparts in Hungary, Russia, Greece, Italy, Germany, Poland, Israel and Australia all said the opposite. Canadians are split in their views on whether immigrants want to fit in or not.

Eighty per cent of survey respondents in Canada said immigrants are no more to blame for crime and 65 per cent said immigrants don’t increase the risk of terrorism, compared to 17 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively, who said otherwise.

The majority in most countries surveyed support the deportation of people who are in their homeland illegally, and Canada is no exception. While 53 per cent of Canadians said irregular migrants should be removed, only 37 per cent disagreed with the statement.

Percentage of people in various countries who supported the following statements:

Immigrants no more to blame for crime:

  • Canada: 80%
  • U.S.: 77%
  • France 76%
  • UK: 74%
  • Spain: 68%
  • 18-country median: 50%

Immigrants do not increase risk of terrorism:

  • Mexico: 65%
  • South Africa: 62%
  • Canada: 61%
  • Japan: 60%
  • France: 59%
  • U.S.: 56%
  • 18-country median: 48%

Immigrants are a strength:

  • Canada: 68%
  • Australia: 64%
  • UK: 62%
  • Sweden: 62%
  • Japan: 59%
  • U.S.: 59%
  • 18-country median: 56%
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