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Leah Farrell

Attitudes towards refugees and immigration remain largely positive in Ireland, ESRI finds

Researchers also noted that some less positive attitudes also emerged in the second half of last year.

NEW RESEARCH HAS shown attitudes towards refugees and immigrants in Ireland remain largely positive compared to other European countries and to previous data on attitudes around the subject here. 

The data from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) think-tank suggests many Irish people continue to view immigration in a favourable light. 

However, researchers noted that less positive attitudes also emerged in the second half of last year and that there has been an increase in the proportion of people who feel immigration is one of the top two issues facing the country today.

The ESRI data also suggests people are more comfortable living in close proximity to EU nationals than those from outside Europe. 

People in Ireland are also more comfortable with having European migrants in their everyday lives. They are somewhat less comfortable with Ukrainian refugees, and least comfortable with asylum seekers. However, 76% of people in Ireland were supportive of helping asylum seekers while 87% were supportive of helping Ukrainian refugees.

The ERSI study also showed that support for immigration could waver when respondents considered the financial implications of assisting refugees. 

A survey experiment showed the levels of support for refugees could be reduced when participants considered potential side effects such as tax increases and pressure on services.  

Education and perceived financial strain were some of the most consistent predictors of immigration attitudes. People with lower qualifications and those in poorer groups were  less positive about immigration and immigrants.

The emergence of less positive attitudes among some respondents coincided with an increase in attacks on sites earmarked for asylum seekers in the second half of last year. 

Report author Dr James Laurence said in spite of this, attitudes remain largely positive towards immigration. 

“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.”

The study used a large representative survey of 3,008 adults in Ireland in 2023.