Perceptions of EU Immigrants’ Welfare Impacts: The Role of Political Sophistication and Predispositions
February 27, 2020
Existing evidence suggests that perceptions of immigrants’ welfare impacts vary widely between Europeans in ways that do not reflect the realities of those impacts for their country. Are misperceptions more widespread among people with lower levels of knowledge of EU institutions and immigration-related facts, or do people knowingly express misperceptions to signal their ideological position on the issue of immigration? In this report, researchers draw on survey data across seven EU countries to explore to what extent political knowledge or ideological predispositions are more defining for people’s evaluations of the welfare impacts of EU immigrants. They find that higher levels of political sophistication — when measured using a scale of correct answers to a set of knowledge questions — works differently for people across the left-right ideological spectrum. Rather than converging towards the most accurate or moderate opinions, those with higher levels of political sophistication exhibit more entrenched views that lean further towards the extreme sides of impact evaluation, especially among those identifying as ideologically far-left. Those who positioned themselves on the far-right side of the ideological scale exhibited no differences in preferences based on knowledge levels and remained the most likely to express the view that EU immigrants receive much more than natives in welfare and benefits.