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Revisiting the Most- and Least-Accepting Countries for Migrants
Gallup Blog

Revisiting the Most- and Least-Accepting Countries for Migrants

by Neli Esipova, Anita Pugliese and Julie Ray

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Like the U.N. migration compact adopted last week in Morocco, Gallup's Migrant Acceptance Index was largely born out of reaction to the migrant crisis that swept Europe in 2015. Amid the backlash against migrants, Gallup developed the index to gauge people's acceptance of migrants not only in Europe, but throughout the rest of the world.

Interestingly, with a few exceptions, the countries with the lowest scores are a who's who of the ones that did not adopt the pact. In fact, six of the 10 countries that score a 2.39 or lower (out of a possible 9.0) on the index either rejected the legally nonbinding agreement outright or delayed a decision until the U.N. General Assembly meets this Wednesday.

But three of the most-accepting countries in the world for migrants, according to the index, also did not sign on: Australia and the U.S., which have rejected the pact, and New Zealand, which could still adopt the agreement this week.

Least- and Most-Accepting Countries for Migrants
Least accepting of migrants Most accepting of migrants
Macedonia 1.47 Iceland 8.26
Montenegro 1.63 New Zealand 8.25
Hungary 1.69 Rwanda 8.16
Serbia 1.80 Canada 8.14
Slovakia 1.83 Sierra Leone 8.05
Israel 1.87 Mali 8.03
Latvia 2.04 Australia 7.98
Czech Republic 2.26 Sweden 7.92
Estonia 2.37 United States 7.86
Croatia 2.39 Nigeria 7.76
Note: Based on 138 countries surveyed in 2016; U.S. and Canada surveyed in 2017; top possible score is 9.0
Gallup World Poll

The index is based on three questions that Gallup asked in 138 countries in 2016 and in the U.S. and Canada in 2017. The questions ask whether people think migrants living in their country, becoming their neighbors and marrying into their families are good things or bad things.

The index is a sum of the points across the three questions, with a maximum possible score of 9.0 (all three are good things) and a minimum possible score of zero (all three are bad things). The higher the score, the more accepting the population is of migrants.

The Migrant Acceptance Index score for the world is 5.34 (revised upward from Gallup's initial estimate of 5.29 that did not include results from Canada or a later U.S. survey). Seventy-seven countries score higher than this average, while 63 score lower.

Many countries on the front lines of the recent migrant crisis in Europe are among the least-accepting countries in the world for migrants, with most located along the Balkan route that once channeled asylum-seekers from Greece to Germany. They are geographically and culturally clustered.

The most-accepting countries for migrants, on the other hand, come from regions all over the globe -- Oceania, Western Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and Northern America. However, a common thread tying many of the most-accepting countries together is their long reputation as receiving countries for migrants -- like the U.S., Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Commonwealth of Independent States Least Accepting; Oceania Most Accepting

With many of the 20 least-accepting countries located in this region, it is not surprising that the Commonwealth of Independent States is the least-accepting region in the world for migrants. The region's index score is 3.26 out of a possible 9.0. Russia's score of 2.60 on the index is chiefly responsible for the region's low overall score, but just two countries -- Turkmenistan and Armenia -- score slightly higher than the global average.

Migrant Acceptance Index, by Region
Migrant Acceptance Index
Oceania 8.02
Northern America 7.89*
Sub-Saharan Africa 6.47
Gulf Cooperation Council 6.11
European Union 5.92
Latin America and the Caribbean 5.89
East Asia 5.29
Non-EU Europe 4.89
South Asia 4.88
Northern Africa 4.59
Southeast Asia 4.48
Middle East 3.70
Commonwealth of Independent States 3.26
Note: Based on 138 countries surveyed in 2016; U.S. and Canada surveyed in 2017; top possible score is 9.0 *Revised from initial estimates released in August 2017 to reflect the inclusion of Canada and a later survey in the U.S.
Gallup World Poll

The Middle East, excluding the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, is the next-lowest region, with a score of 3.70. South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia, Northern Africa and non-EU countries in Europe all score lower than the global average.

The regions with the highest index scores are Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) at 8.02 and Northern America at 7.89 (revised upward from the initial estimate of 7.26 with the inclusion of Canada and a later U.S. survey).

Most-Educated, Youngest Generations More Accepting

Worldwide, adults in certain demographics are solidly more accepting of migrants than others are. For example, acceptance rises with education. Those with at least four years of education after high school or with college degrees are the most likely of all educational groups to be accepting, with an index score of 6.13. Those in the highest 20% income group -- who are also more likely to have higher education -- also stand out in their acceptance of migrants compared with those in all lower income groups. Residents of urban areas also are more likely to be accepting, as opposed to those living in rural areas.

Migrant Acceptance Index, by Demographics
Migrant Acceptance Index
Primary education or less 4.93*
Secondary education 5.55*
Completed 4 years of education after high school and/or earned college degree 6.13*
Gen Zers (1997 or later) 5.71
Millennials (1980-1996) 5.46*
Gen Xers (1965-1979) 5.23*
Baby boomers (1946-1964) 5.07*
Traditionalists (before 1946) 5.34*
Rural 5.16*
Urban 5.70*
Income group
Poorest 20% 5.04
Second 20% 5.07*
Middle 20% 5.22
Fourth 20% 5.14
Richest 20% 5.53
Note: Based on 138 countries surveyed in 2016; U.S. and Canada surveyed in 2017; top possible score is 9.0 *Revised from initial estimates released in August 2017 to reflect the inclusion of Canada and a later survey in the U.S.
Gallup World Poll

At the global level, younger generations are the most accepting of migrants, while older people are less accepting. Those in the postmillennial generation are the most accepting of all. However, traditionalists -- the oldest generation -- are more accepting than Generation Xers and baby boomers.

The CIS region is a notable exception to each of these global patterns -- acceptance is low regardless of education, generation, income level, or whether residents live in urban or rural areas. However, in the CIS, those with less education tend to be slightly more accepting.


More than 160 countries adopted the U.N.'s migration compact last week, and a number of them are still considering their options. Many of the ones that did not sign on are not that surprising, given their low levels of migrant acceptance. But even some of the most-accepting countries, such as the Australia and United States, did not sign on -- saying the agreement would not be in either country's best interests. But based on the scores, if the decision had been left to their people, the result might have been different.

Dr. John Fleming contributed to this analysis.

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