Anti-Immigration Sentiment Has No Relation To The Number Of Foreigners In A Country (INFOGRAPHIC)

14/05/2014 17:53 | Updated 15 May 2014

With just over a week to go to the European Elections, immigration continues to be the political hot potato lobbed by the right at anyone who wants to remain in the EU.

Parties like Ukip claim the UK is so full of foreigners that the NHS is crumbling, English people can't get a job any more and queues for your local Odeon are unbearably long.

No wonder anti-immigration sentiment is rampant across Europe - and it makes sense that it's strongest in the countries with the highest number of of foreigners, right?

Well, it isn't.


The percentages refer to persons who are not citizens of the country in which they reside including stateless persons

Let's start with the UK...

  • Currently the proportion of foreigners stands at 7.8%.
  • This situation is mirrored in France where the foreign population is only 6.2%, yet Marine Le Pen's National Front has made significant headway in municipal elections on an anti-EU/immigration platform.
  • This is a similar number to the UK, but Switzerland's foreign-born population is significantly higher at 22.1%.
  • A similar situation is apparent in the Czech Republic (4%) where the anti-immigrant Usvit (Dawn) party's popularity belies the fact it was only founded a few months ago.

  • The same rhetoric has proven popular in Austria (11.8% foreign population) and Norway (8.2%).
  • So what's responsible for anti-immigrant sentiment if it has nothing to do with how many actually reside in a country?

    It can't be solely blamed on a worsening economy - both Austria and Sweden are doing well economically and Norway has almost zero unemployment and wages that are among the highest in the world.

    Charles Kupchan of Georgetown University, said: "I think there are two basic things going on.

    "One is anti-immigration sentiment that we see all over Europe and we see in the United States, people living next door who were not born here, who may be vying for jobs, who may not look like you.

    "And the second is what I would call something akin to the libertarian sentiment in the United States, sovereignty, taking back the rights of the nation from globalization, from European integration. Our borders are being penetrated. We have lost a certain amount of control over our destiny.

    "Those two things are running together, the anti-immigrant and the sovereignty. And that is why this is somewhat threatening to Europe, because it has an anti-E.U. tinge to it."

    Events in the UK would appear to back up Kupchan's claims. Despite Ukip looking like they could secure a comfortable win in the European elections, many have questioned just what their popularity rides on.

    She said: "This anti-immigrant campaign undermines Ukip's claim not to be a racist party. They are turning the election into a game of 'us' and 'them'. Well, I am with 'them'.

    "The direction in which the party is going is terrifying: Ukip has descended into a form of racist populism that I cannot bring myself to vote for.

    "This week I decided to leave the party and I will abstain from voting in the upcoming European elections. I urge other Ukip supporters to do the same."

    It would also appear that those members of the public with the least actual contact with foreigners are more likely to support a crackdown on immigration.

    The above infographic is compiled from 2013 data from Eurostat, and originally appeared as a 2012 version here.


    Belgium 11.2%
    Bulgaria 0.6%
    Czech Republic 4.0%
    Denmark 6.6%
    Germany 9.3%
    Estonia 14.9%
    Ireland 11.8%
    Greece 7.8%
    Spain 10.8%
    France 6.2%
    Croatia 0.65%
    Italy 7.4%
    Cyprus 19.6%
    Latvia 15.6%
    Lithuania 0.8%
    Luxembourg 44.5%
    Hungary 1.4%
    Malta 5.3%
    Netherlands 4.3%
    Austria 11.8%
    Poland 0.15%
    Portugal 4%
    Romania 0.4%
    Slovenia 4.4%
    Slovakia 1.3%
    Finland 3.6%
    Sweden 6.8%
    UK 7.6%
    Iceland 6.5%
    Lichtenstein 33.3%
    Norway 8.2%
    Switzerland 22.1%
    Turkey 0.3%

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