Transatlantic Trends: Consistency Amid Disorder

Building a Smarter German-American Partnership

The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMFUS) has released the results of its 2011 Transatlantic Trends: Immigration survey. Conducted via phone surveys of more than 13,000 European and North American residents (in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain), this survey assesses public opinion of immigration issues. Questions range in subject matter from economics, language acquisition, refugee influx, and Muslim integration to education. Many experts predicted that the most recent survey would indicate a strengthening of anti-immigration convictions due to externalities of the Arab Awakening and European economic decline.

While many respondents expressed worry regarding immigration, results indicated widespread stability, and in cases, improvement in perception of immigrants. Despite recent increases in support for populist political parties and booming declaration from Angela Merkel in 2010 that multiculturalism has failed in Germany, the survey fifty percent of Germans regard immigration as an opportunity rather than a problem, exceeding the continental average by 15%. Immigrants in Germany fair considerably better economically than immigrants in other European nations. Several articles published by the Die Welt echo these sentiments. However, these strides in integration belie persistent controversies regarding immigrants in Germany.

When prompted to assess their government’s effectiveness in integrating immigrants, nearly sixty percent of citizens surveyed answered “poor” or “very poor.” Though recently proven to be economically better off than many immigrants in Europe, immigrants in Germany often only receive temporary contracts for work, rendering their employment less stable. Furthermore, Germans tend to hold more negative views of Muslim immigrants than immigrants of other faiths. Fifty eight percent of German respondents declared that Muslim immigrants “were integrating poorly.” Furthermore, Germany ranks first in the survey (tied with France) for having the highest number of citizens rate immigrants’ children as “poorly” or “very poorly integrated.”

With the publication of Thilo Sarrazin’s anti-immigration diatribe, Deutschland schafft sich ab, in recent memory, increased support for populist political parties, and continuous evidence of immigrants leading parallel existences in Germany, immigration and integration undoubtedly will remain pressing issues in German society.