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Acceptance Higher Among People Who Know Migrants

Acceptance Higher Among People Who Know Migrants

by John Fleming, Neli Esipova and Julie Ray

Story Highlights

  • Migrant acceptance higher among those who know migrants
  • Relationship holds in 134 out of 139 countries

The following findings are based on Gallup's paper, "Migrant Acceptance Index: A Global Examination of the Relationship Between Interpersonal Contact and Attitudes Toward Migrants," recently published in the international journal Border Crossing.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Simply knowing a migrant might go a long way to help counter stereotypes against them and ease migrants' integration in their adopted countries, new Gallup research suggests.

In 134 out of the 139 countries* Gallup recently surveyed, people scored higher on Gallup's Migrant Acceptance Index if they personally knew at least one migrant. Worldwide, the index score among people who know a migrant is 6.78 (out of a possible 9.0), while among those who don't personally know a migrant, it is 4.80.

Map and bar graph: Migrant Acceptance Index is higher among those who know migrants (6.78/9.0) than among those who don't (4.80/9.0).

Gallup created the Migrant Acceptance Index to gauge people's acceptance of migrants. The index is based on three questions 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 higher the score, the more accepting the population is of migrants.

Scores on Gallup's first global deployment of this index ranged widely across the total 140 countries where these questions were asked in 2016 and 2017, from a high of 8.26 in Iceland to a low of 1.47 in Macedonia.

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

But regardless of whether countries were the least accepting or most accepting of migrants, scores in almost all countries were higher if there was interpersonal contact -- which was established by asking people if they personally know a migrant. Just five countries -- Afghanistan, Benin, Congo (Brazzaville), Malawi and the United Arab Emirates -- did not show evidence of the contact effect.


This effect emerged on six continents, across myriad language groups, and within samples made up of men and women, young and old, rich and poor, and educated and uneducated alike. Although these data do not allow us to determine the causal direction of the observed effects, it is likely that the effect works in both directions, as other researchers have demonstrated, but with the stronger effect moving from contact to attitudes.


An influential social psychological theory sheds some light on how migrants are perceived by those who choose to -- or choose not to -- interact with them. Allport's (1954) interpersonal contact theory states that direct interpersonal contact with members of minority and other social groups is one of the most effective ways to reduce stereotyping, prejudice and intergroup conflict. By inference, direct interpersonal contact with migrants ought to reduce stereotyping and prejudice against them and ease their transition and integration into the social fabric of their adopted countries.

With immigration taking such a high-profile position around the world, understanding which countries are predisposed to accept or reject migrants can help shed light on where immigration issues are likely to arise. More important, however, is the possibility that simple interpersonal contact with migrants can help moderate potential prejudice and discrimination across national boundaries, cultures and languages.

Anita Pugliese and Rajesh Srinivasan contributed to this analysis.

Read the full journal article.

*The question about knowing a migrant was not asked in Croatia.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted throughout 2016 in 138 countries and in 2017 in the U.S. and Canada. In some countries, such as India, Russia and China, sample sizes are much larger, between 2,000 and 4,000 adults. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error ranges from ±2.1 percentage points to ±5.6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

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