Fewer Norwegians hail immigration

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A new survey shows that the numbers of Norwegians who think immigration is good for the country have fallen markedly during the past year. More are now skeptical, believed to be a result of last year’s refugee influx just as the country’s once-booming economy shifted into reverse.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg meeting some of the newly arrived refugees who crossed the border into Norway from Russia late last year. The numbers of Norwegians who think her government is doing a good job in tackling the refugee crisis has increased. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

Prime Minister Erna Solberg meeting some of the newly arrived refugees who crossed the border into Norway from Russia late last year. The numbers of Norwegians who think her government is doing a good job in tackling the refugee crisis have increased. Solberg’s coalition is proposing more restrictive immigration policies. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

A lot has happened in just one year, noted newspaper Aftenposten as it presented the results on Friday of the survey conducted by research firm Ipsos MMI. It measured Norwegian attitudes towards immigration and integration in February, and compared results to those from a similar survey in February of last year.

There was a “considerable” decline in the numbers of those characterizing immigration as “very good” or “quite good” for Norway. Nearly half still view immigration as positive (46 percent), according to the Ipsos MMI survey, but that’s down from 54 percent last year.

There was an increase in the numbers of those who were neutral on the issue, from 31 percent last year to 35 percent this year, while there also were increases in those who think immigration is “quite bad” or “very bad” for Norway. They now amount to 18 percent of Norwegians, up from 12 percent last year.

Signs of support for more restrictive policies
After around 35,000 asylum seekers arrived in Norway last year, more Norwegians think Norway should now take in fewer. Only 8 percent think “considerably more” refugees should be approved for settlement, down from 9 percent last year, while 22 percent think “considerably fewer” refugees should be able to re-establish themselves in Norway, nearly double the 12 percent who felt that way last year.

There was, meanwhile, a sharp increase among those believing that Norway’s conservative coalition government is doing a good job dealing with the crisis (44 percent, as opposed to 33 percent last year). More are concerned about the increased numbers of asylum seekers in Norway and more think integration doesn’t function well, even though Prime Minister Erna Solberg has stated that she thinks it does, compared to other European countries that also have been receiving record numbers of people fleeing the Middle East and Africa. Solberg’s government has proposed more restrictive asylum and immigration policies, and faces negotiations with opposition parties in Parliament next week.

Change in attitudes
Jan-Paul Brekke, research chief for Ipsos MMI, told Aftenposten that he thinks the new survey results signify a change in Norwegian attitudes towards immigration and integration. “We see increased concern,” he said. “There are more people who don’t think integration efforts function well. We also see that there are fewer who think immigration is good for Norway, and more are neutral.”

Those most critical, according to the demographics of Ipsos MMI’s, are older men with low levels of education. Norwegian men in general were more skeptical than Norwegian women, while older Norwegians were more skeptical than younger Norwegians. Those with college educations had more liberal attitudes towards immigration than those who only finished high school.

On a geographic basis, residents of Oslo were most positve towards immigration, with 52 percent claiming that it was good for the country. Roughly a third of Oslo’s 647,000 residents (207,000) have moved to Norway from other countries or have parents who were immigrants.

In a series of random “person on the street” interviews conducted by Aftenposten, several pointed to the refugee influx of last year as the main reason for the change in attitudes. “So many people arrived in a short time,” one man told Aftenposten. “I think more people are worrying about the risks that can bring, both economic and cultural.” One woman interviewed also pointed to the refugee influx, but added that ignorance is the root of prejudice: “In Oslo there are many immigrants, and I think it’s great to see that more acquaintance with them leads to more positive views.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund