Three out of four Canadians support taking in refugees — numbers that place Canada among the world’s most welcoming nations on the question of people fleeing violence and war — according to a new survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center.
The Pew survey of global attitudes on migration, released Wednesday, pegged Canadian support for refugees at 74 per cent, with 22 per cent opposed and 4 per cent of adult respondents saying they didn’t know or refused to say.
The views from Canada match similarly strong majorities in many EU countries, according to Pew, where three-quarters or more of adult respondents in Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom, France, Spain and the Netherlands all back taking in refugees from countries where people are fleeing violence and war.
But Pew’s new EU data came with a caveat: while strongly supportive of refugees, a significant majority of European adults disapprove of the way the European Union has dealt with the refugee crisis.
Yet three years after a record 1.3 million migrants sought asylum in Europe, including large influxes of people displaced by war in Syria and Iraq, the 2018 Pew survey even found majority support for taking in refugees in Greece and Italy, two of the main entry points during the 2015 migration surge. The 2018 findings sharply contrast Pew data gathered two years ago, when respondents in those countries expressed negative views toward refugees.
Poll respondents in the U.S., though measurably less welcoming than Canada, backed supporting refugees at 66 per cent with 29 per cent opposed, and 6 per cent offering no opinion. The findings follow a decision earlier this month by the Trump administration to resettle a record-low 30,000 refugees during fiscal 2019.
Elsewhere, Pew’s 18-country snapshot of attitudes on refugees showed predominantly negative views in South Africa (48-50), Russia (41-47) and Hungary (32-54). Hungary, the Pew Center summary observed, passed legislation in June that made it a crime to assist asylum seekers and refugees — “One reason the European Parliament recently voted to pursue sanctions against Hungary for not upholding European Union values.”
Opposition to refugees measured highest in Israel, where questions of violent displacement inevitably snag upon the Gordian knot of Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There, 37 per cent of Israelis expressed support for refugees versus 57 per cent opposed and 6 per cent declining to answer.
The findings suggest Canada continues to stand among the world’s most welcoming nations on the question of refugees, despite other polls that show deepening divisions on the broader issue of immigration as the country approaches a federal election in 2019.
The Pew Center’s Canadian findings on refugees — based on a survey of 1,056 adults between May 23 and June 21 with a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points — follow an Angus Reid poll in August that showed deepening concern over Ottawa’s handling of asylum seekers. The findings underscored the rising political stakes for the federal government as it readies to enter an election year.
Mitch Potter is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @MPwrites