Greece has bucked the trend set by most other European countries that are host to large refugee populations. Compared to many of their counterparts, Greeks are more frustrated with their political leaders, pessimistic about the future and doubtful about the benefits of immigration. In spite of this, 64 per cent say that Greece should help provide for people entering Europe as migrants, and ‘warm’ feelings towards refugees outnumber ‘cold’ feelings by 56 to 17 per cent. Overall, Greeks are more likely to express empathy towards refugees and reject efforts to blame migrants for their circumstances.
These are some of the key findings from a major new national study of public attitudes undertaken by Ipsos Greece for the international organisation More in Common, and commissioned in conjunction with the Social Change Initiative. HumanRights360 has facilitated the Greek edition of the report.
Based on this approach, we design and implement actions of strategic communication, with the overall goal of constructing an inclusive narrative for migrants and refugees:
- The campaign “X them out! A Black Map of Athens” is designed to pinpoint and highlight the unseen criminality related to racist attacks in the public space: https://valtousx.gr/en/
- The campaign #OrdinanryWorkingPeople, a central strategy of our work, which focuses on what unites us rather on what divides us.
Our work on strategic communication is being implemented through the support of The Social Change Initiative, and the key findings of the report in Greek national identity and attitudes towards immigration and refugees.
- Greeks retain a culture rooted in the values of solidarity and compassion.
- More than half of Greeks feel ‘warm’ towards refugees (56 per cent) and just one in six feels ‘cold’ (17 per cent) towards them (27 per cent have neutral feelings).
- 64 per cent say that as a Christian country, Greece should help provide the needs of those entering Europe as migrants.
- Most Greeks have had direct engagement with refugees in some form. 50 per cent say they have made a donation of money, food, clothing, or other items in the past year to support refugees. 40 per cent report knowing a refugee personally, and 38 per cent know someone who does voluntary work for refugees.
- In focus group interviews, researchers heard Greeks explain their response to the crisis as an example of Greeks being more compassionate than others, contrasting Greece’s behaviour with that of the EU and other countries.
- 72 per cent believe that refugees coming to Greece should be allowed to maintain their own traditions.
- Greeks connect compassion for outsiders to their national pride and the ‘way of being Greek’ and most Greeks do not embrace nativist sentiments.
- There is limited support for nativist ideas such as sending minors back to their country of origin (only 15 per cent agree that refugees who are children arriving without any family should be sent back home, and only 28 per cent with the statement that ‘the EU should not help refugees with food, housing and assistance if it does not help Greeks first’; even in the two closed segments, the majority of Greeks do not agree).
- An overwhelming 94 per cent of the population agrees that when the government makes laws, the number one principle should be ensuring that everyone is treated fairly.
- Nevertheless Greeks are deeply frustrated. They feel that globalisation has ravaged their economy and see few signs of economic recovery. They feel let down by the EU and their politicians.
- The words Greeks most commonly use to describe their country are ‘angry’, ‘weak’ and ‘fearful’.
- Only 16 per cent believe that globalisation has had a very positive impact on the Greek economy.
- 82 per cent believe ‘the economy is rigged to benefit the rich and powerful.’
- 79 per cent say traditional parties and politicians do not care about people like them.
- 73 per cent agree with the proposition that to fix Greece, the country needs a strong leader who is willing to break the rules.
- Immigration is a top priority concern for just 1 in 13 Greeks, with most still focused on economic conditions.
- More than half the population rank economic concerns as the top issue facing the country (31 per cent identifying the economic situation generally, and a further 22 per cent citing unemployment).
- Only one in 13 rank immigration as the top issue facing the country (7 per cent).
- Overall, more people are pessimistic than optimistic about the prospects for the economy and Greek society.
- Partisan identity plays an important role in Greeks’ feelings about the future. More than two-thirds of supporters of the governing Syriza party feel optimistic about the future for Greece’s economy and society, a view shared by half of those supporting leftist parties generally.
- In contrast, only one in four supporters of right-wing parties feel optimistic while this is true for less than one in seven supporters of the far-right Golden Dawn party.
- A detailed segmentation analysis of public attitudes identifies six population segments:
- 20 per cent of Greeks identify with ‘open’ values and belong to the segment of Greek Multiculturals (20 per cent) who have a more modern, secular outlook and express the strongest support for migrants and refugees.
- 18 per cent identify with ‘closed’ values and belong to either the Nationalist Opponents (15 per cent) and Alarmed Opponents (3 per cent). They have consistently negative views of immigration and refugees and worry about the loss of Greek identity, a clash of cultural values and the economic costs of migration.
- 62 per cent of Greeks belong to one of the three ‘middle’ groups which hold conflicting views about national identity and immigration.
- Moderate Humanitarians (28 per cent) have a strong ‘fellow feeling’ for newcomers whom they see as people like them, struggling against a broken system.
- Instinctive Pragmatists (19 per cent) view migrants through the lens of the threats of increased risks of crime and terrorism.
- Detached Traditionalists (15 per cent) see immigrants as unfair competitors for jobs and public services.
- Overall, public opinion is less polarized in Greece than in many other countries, with smaller differences between opposing groups than in other countries.
- Greeks feel proud of their culture, but anxious about a loss of national identity and a perceived incompatibility between Islam and Greek values.
- More than three quarters of Greeks say that they are proud to be Greek (77 per cent) and are proud of their country’s history (78 per cent). This compares to 52 per cent of Italians who say the same thing about their own country.
- However more than half also believe that Greek identity is disappearing, and a similar number say that they sometimes feel ‘like a stranger in my own country’ (54 and 56 per cent respectively).
- 60 per cent also believe Greece needs to protect its Orthodox religious heritage from outside faiths and beliefs, and a large majority worry that Islam and Greek society are incompatible (57 to 23 per cent, with majorities in every segment).
- There is little evidence of cultural sensitivities around ‘political correctness’ in Greece. 85 per cent feel that ‘it is acceptable for me to express myself about subjects like immigration and refugees’.
- Few Greeks believe that immigration is good for their country, but this does not translate into hostility towards migrants themselves.
- Only one in five Greeks believe that immigration is good for Greek society and its economy (22 and 21 per cent respectively).
- The most common concerns about immigration are that it is ‘costing the welfare state and draining resources which could be spent on Greeks’ (51 per cent agree); that immigration is ‘dividing society into sharply contrasting groups of opinion and beliefs’ (46 per cent agree); and that immigrants are being given priority over Greeks in the provision of services (41 per cent agree).
- 56 per cent believe that migrants generally make efforts to integrate, although many remain skeptical of immigration because of the lack of infrastructure and services to make integration successful.
- Almost two thirds of Greeks are neither strongly pro-migrant or anti-migrant and most see them as hard-working and well-intentioned.
- Greeks have little trust in institutions at home or abroad. Greeks are frustrated with the European Union, suspicious towards Turkey and distrustful of NGOs.
- 77 per cent believe that their country has been abused by its European partners during the refugee and migration crisis. All seven population segments show similar levels of agreement on the issue with the exception of the Instinctive Pragmatists (for whom agreement is lower at 55 per cent).
- A similar number (73 per cent) say that Greece should not trust Turkey as a partner in managing refugee issues.
- There are concerns about non-government organisations (NGOs) exploiting the refugee crisis, with 62 per cent of Greeks saying that some NGOs take money for refugees and migrants, while not in reality helping refugees. Only 19 per cent of Greeks believe that NGOs should be taking more responsibility to help refugees.
Only 18 per cent trust the media’s reporting on immigration and refugees.