Economic Strain, Education and Attitudes towards Foreigners in the European Union



Surveys carried out by the Eurobarometer survey series show a sharp increase in the negative attitudes of European citizens towards foreigners between 1988 and 2003, but a noticeable reversal of this trend between 2003 and 2008. This paper provides a statistical analysis of the determinants of attitudes towards foreigners and analyzes the factors associated with changes in anti-foreigner sentiment among European citizens. The paper concludes that while rising racial prejudice accounts for a substantial portion of the trend in anti-foreigner sentiment, economic conditions also matter, with economic strain leading to more negative attitudes. At the same time, educational attainment is shown to be a strong antidote to anti-foreigner attitudes. Both rising average schooling and more positive attitudes towards foreigners by the highly educated have led to a reversal of the climbing anti-immigrant sentiments in Europe. The paper discusses policy implications and the potential effects of the European economic collapse since 2008.