New Index Shows Least-, Most-Accepting Countries for Migrants

by Neli Esipova, John Fleming and Julie Ray


  • Eastern European countries among least accepting of migrants
  • U.S. makes top 20 most-accepting countries
  • Acceptance rises with education

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Many countries on the front lines of the recent migrant crisis in Europe are among the least-accepting countries in the world for migrants, according to Gallup's new Migrant Acceptance Index. Nine of the 10 countries that score a 2.39 or lower (out of a possible 9.0) on the index are former Soviet bloc countries -- with most located along the Balkan route that once channeled asylum seekers from Greece to Germany. Israel, which has dealt with its own influx of asylum seekers from Africa in the past decade, is the only non-European country with scores this low.

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 Sierra Leone 8.05

Slovakia 1.83 Mali 8.03

Israel 1.87 Australia 7.98

Latvia 2.04 Sweden 7.92

Czech Republic 2.26 Nigeria 7.76

Estonia 2.37 Burkina Faso 7.74

Croatia 2.39 Ireland 7.74
Note: Based on 138 countries surveyed in 2016; U.S. surveyed in 2017; top possible score is 9.0

Gallup created the Migrant Acceptance Index to gauge people's acceptance of migrants based on increasing degrees of personal proximity. The index is based on three questions that Gallup asked in 138 countries in 2016 and the U.S. in 2017.
Migrant Acceptance Index Questions
Now, I would like to ask you some questions about foreign immigrants -- people who have come to live and work in this country from another country. Please tell me whether you, personally, think each of the following is a good thing or a bad thing.

Immigrants living in this country A good thing

An immigrant becoming your neighbor A bad thing

An immigrant marrying one of your close relatives (It depends)*

(Don't know/Refused)*
* = Volunteered response

The response "a good thing" is worth three points, a volunteered response of "it depends" or "don't know" is worth one point, and "a bad thing" is worth zero points. 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 Migrant Acceptance Index score for the world is 5.29. Seventy-seven countries score higher than this average, while 61 score lower. A majority worldwide (54%) say immigrants living in their countries is a good thing. Slightly fewer -- but still half, at 50% -- say an immigrant becoming their neighbor is a good thing, and 44% say an immigrant marrying a close relative is a good thing.

Migrants Not Welcome in Eastern Europe Before Migrant Crisis

People in Eastern European countries, who are least accepting of migrants in general, are also among the most strongly opposed to accepting any Syrian refugees in their countries. At least half of adults in seven of these least-accepting countries believe their countries should not accept any refugees. In Macedonia, Hungary and Montenegro, the countries with the lowest Migrant Acceptance Index scores in the world, at least two-thirds say their countries should not admit any Syrian refugees.

But there is evidence that people in these countries -- many of which have long histories of conflicts with neighboring countries -- were already predisposed to be suspicious of outsiders, and the influx of refugees further inflamed these attitudes. Even before the crisis, the majority across Eastern Europe said that migration levels in their countries should be decreased. The same is true of Israel, where three in four residents in 2012 -- the year before the country finished building a fence along its border with Egypt to keep out migrants from Africa -- said they wanted immigration decreased.

As opposed to the least-accepting countries, which are geographically and culturally clustered, the most-accepting countries for migrants are located in disparate parts of the globe. The top two most-accepting countries could not be farther apart -- Iceland with a score of 8.26, and New Zealand with a score of 8.25. However, a common thread tying many of the most-accepting countries together is their long history as receiving countries for migrants. While the highest-receiving country in the world, the U.S., does not make the top 10 countries, it does make the top 20 with a score of 7.27.

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 7.27
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. surveyed in 2017; top possible score is 9.0

The Middle East, excluding the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, is the next-lowest region, with a score of 3.70. South Asia, Southeast 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 7.27 (this currently includes just the U.S.; Canada will be surveyed later in 2017).

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 education groups to be accepting, with an index score of 5.67. 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 4.92
Secondary education 5.36
Completed 4 years of education after high school and/or earned college degree 5.67
Gen Zers (1997 or later) 5.71
Millennials (1980-1996) 5.42
Gen Xers (1965-1979) 5.19
Baby boomers (1946-1964) 4.97
Traditionalists (before 1946)

Rural 5.07
Urban 5.44
Income groups
Poorest 20% 5.04
Second 20% 5.06
Middle 20% 5.22
Fourth 20% 5.14
Richest 20% 5.53

New Index Shows Least-, Most-Accepting Countries for Migrants ...