Sharing the Burden in a Free Riders’ Land: The EU Migration and Asylum Policy in the Views of Public Opinion and Politicians – European Journal of Political Research – article

Sharing the Burden in a Free Riders’ Land: The EU Migration and Asylum Policy in the Views of Public Opinion and Politicians

LINDA BASILE, FRANCESCO OLMASTRONI | European Journal of Political Research

2019-10-22

New divisions have emerged within the EU over the handling of the recent migration crisis. While both frontline and favoured destination countries are called upon to deal with the number of migrants looking for international protection and better living conditions, no consensus has been reached yet on the quota‐based mechanisms for the relocation of refugees and financial help to exposed countries proposed by the EU. Such mechanisms pose a trade‐off for member states: the EU’s response to the crisis offers help to countries under pressure, but it inevitably requires burden‐sharing among all EU members and a limitation of their national sovereignty. Within this scenario, the article compares how public opinion and political elites in ten different EU countries view a common EU migration policy grounded on solidarity and burden‐sharing. By tracing both within‐ and cross‐national patterns of convergence (and divergence), the article shows that contextual factors influence policy preferences, with support for solidarity measures being stronger in countries with higher shares of illegal migrants and asylum seekers. While individuals’ predispositions, identity, and ideological orientations account for both masses’ and elites’ attitudes towards burden‐sharing measures, subjective evaluations and beliefs concerning the severity of the crisis provide additional and alternative explanations when looking at the public’s preferences. In particular, we find out that concern about the flow of migrants to Europe consolidates the impact of contextual factors, whereas the overestimation of the immigrant population fosters hostility against solidarity measures, with both effects more pronounced as the country’s exposure to the crisis increases. In the light of these results, the main implication of our study is that EU institutions have to primarily address entrenched beliefs and misperceptions about immigrants to enhance public support for a joint approach to migration.

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