MIPEX in Use: The links between integration policies & public opinion

Election Time in France radiowood Flickr Creative CommonsPaper by Marie-Sophie Callens, LISER

A new literature review finds that integration policies, as measured by MIPEX, are strongly associated with the general public’s level of perceived threat from immigrants and, perhaps, to their level of anti-immigrant attitudes.


Which European nations are most ‘friendly’ to immigrants?

Readers of the European press will be used to such headlines, sometimes accompanied by clever info-graphics. You may have seen these headlines most recently across Europe, from Italy to Sweden, following publication of the European Commission’s latest standard opinion poll in December 2014 (Standard Eurobarometer 82). These articles are often full of navel-gazing questions: Are our politicians out of touch with the public? Does the public over-estimate the problems associated with immigrants and under-estimate their contributions? How should integration policies respond to public opinion?

The creation of MIPEX now allows researchers to address the question of whether and how integration policies are related to public opinion. And already at first glance, MIPEX analysis indicates that integration policies and public opinion are strongly linked to each other across Europe.

Using this new 2014 Eurobarometer data, a strong correlation emerges between integration policies, as measured by MIPEX 2010, and the share of people who have positive or negative feelings towards non-EU immigrants. Countries with stronger integration policies tend to have a more supportive public opinion towards non-EU immigrants:


This strong correlation holds even after dropping Sweden (the outlier below).

Finding across Europe are confirmed across all the OECD countries in MIPEX, based on Gallup’s 2012 World Poll, which you can find in the OECD’s Society at a Glance 2014MIPEXGallupCorrelationStrong links emerge between MIPEX (whether countries’ integration policies promote equal rights and opportunities) and public opinion (whether the public thinks that their city/area is a good place to live for immigrants).

A 2012 MIPEX blog entry identified a very strong correlation between integration policies (whether policies promote equal rights and opportunities for immigrants) and public opinion (whether the public wants equal rights for legal immigrants as for nationals). Strong positive correlations emerge not only with the MIPEX overall score, but also with most of the policies in its seven policy areas, such as labour market mobility, family reunion, access to nationality, or anti-discrimination. Since 2007, several quantitative political scientists have delved further into the MIPEX data: see for instance MIPEX partner Dirk Jacobs’ Youtube video and PPT based on an MPG-edited book.

Read the NEW MIPEX Literature Review!

The elementary analysis in this blog is just a brief introduction to our new literature review, undertaken voluntarily by Marie-Sophie Callens of LISER Luxembourg (formerly known as CEPS/INSTEAD) in cooperation with the research team here at MPG. Reviewing 18 recently published multivariate studies using MIPEX and similar integration indices, Marie-Sophie Callens finds that integration policies are strongly associated with the general public’s level of perceived threat from immigrants and, perhaps, to their level of anti-immigrant attitudes. Inclusive policies can be said to reduce the level of perceived threat while exclusionary policies tend to reinforce perceptions of threat. This findings support theories from the literature on public opinion towards immigrants and demonstrate that policies as a country-level contextual variable matter for public opinion. Since most studies could not establish a causal link, further research is needed to corroborate the impact of integration policies on public opinion.

Follow the MIPEX website for more results of the new CIDOB/MPG project, Integration policies: Who benefits? The development and use of indicators in integration debates. The project builds on and expands the Migrant Integration Policy Index. It will inform and engage key policy actors about how to use indicators to improve integration governance and policy effectiveness. To that end, the project will identify and measure integration outcomes, integration policies, and other contextual factors that can impact policy effectiveness; describe the real and potential beneficiaries of policies; and collect and analyse high-quality evaluations of integration policy effects.