North West Migrants Forum

New study reveals most people in Ireland are supportive of immigration

A new study published today (March 22) reveals that attitudes in Ireland towards refugees and immigration generally remain largely positive.

The ‘Attitudes Towards Immigration and Refugees in Ireland’ report was drawn up by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) in response to the unprecedented migration levels being experienced in the 26 counties.

The ESRI undertook the project against the backdrop of protests across the country, including in Donegal, in opposition to the housing of asylum seekers. The most notable of these was a riot in Dublin city centre in November 2023 which has been linked, in part, to mobilisation by far right groups.

In drawing up its findings the ESRI looked at previous data on attitudes in Ireland and compared the current picture with other European countries. It found that over the last decade Irish positivity towards immigration has “significantly increased”.

In 2022 beliefs that immigrants make the country a better place to live, that the country’s cultural life is enriched by immigrants and that immigration is good for the economy were at a “historic high” according to the ESRI, based on data going back to 2002.

There have been some very recent declines in support for immigration, in the last six months of 2023 in particular. Yet Ireland continues to have some of the most positive attitudes towards immigration of all the 27 EU member states – ranked fourth most supportive of immigration in the European Union and the UK. Only Sweden, Luxembourg and Denmark rated better.

Among the ESRI’s key findings was that those who identify as politically left wing are more positive when it comes to immigration, which may indicate the emergence of a left-right split in attitudes.

The study also reveals that people’s perceptions of the past and future are associated with their immigration attitudes. Those who feel that their quality of life was better in the past or who have less confidence in the future are less positive about immigration overall and feel less comfortable with migrants in their everyday lives, especially with asylum seekers.

There was a rise in anti-migrant sentiment late in 2023 but largely Ireland remains positive in its attitudes towards those seeking sanctuary here. Photo: Sayles.

People concerned about access to housing and access to services are also less positive towards immigration than people concerned about racism, climate change or poverty in Ireland.

But overall, the findings in the report indicate that attitudes to immigration and immigrants in Ireland “remain positive”.

Author of the report, Dr James Laurence, said, “Understanding attitudes to immigrants and immigration are important for migrant integration.

“Despite concerns regarding an escalation of anti-immigration activities, evidence suggests that most people in Ireland are supportive of immigration and are comfortable with different immigrant groups.

“The findings indicate that broader policy concerns among people can spill over to shape people’s concerns about immigration. Attitudes are likely influenced by people’s social and economic conditions, such as whether they are having difficulties making ends meet.”

(Main photo caption: Spiske)