Danes rank highest in the EU in terms of awareness of integration issues, but in fact the results of a recent survey show that their understanding does not reflect reality. Denmark's tough policy on refugees and migrants seems to be based on this misguided reality.
Three in four Danes believe that integration is far less successful than facts show. This applies to voters from all Danish parties, but the misunderstandings are greater the further right a voter stands politically, and the older they are.
In general, 74% of Danes surveyed believe that progress in integration is significantly worse than it actually is. Only 16% come close to knowing the actual reality, and a further 10% believe that integration is more successful than it is.
Though crime rates among young men with a non-western background are in fact decreasing, the majority of Danes believe they are rising dramatically. Danes also underestimate how many foreigners are employed, how many are enrolled in education, and how many support gender equality and democracy. Finally, they also tend to think that the number of non-western immigrants in Denmark is twice as high as it is.
These are results of a survey conducted by online media company Monday Morning, the Danish Knowledge Centre on Integration and two university researchers, based on interviews with over 2 000 Danes and numbers from state database “Integration Barometer”.
“People who vote for parties with a hard policy on migration tend to think that integration is less successful than it is. But in fact a majority of voters from all parties has a negative impression of reality. From a democratic angle, it's risky if voters are basing their attitudes on something which is far from the truth,” said founder of the Danish Knowledge Centre on Integration, Rasmus Brygger.
In the survey, those interviewed had been informed that 5.4% of young male immigrants and descendants of immigrants with non-western background had been convicted of a felony in 2012. Subsequently they were asked to estimate how many were convicted in 2019. Overall, respondents guessed that the proportion convicted had risen to 20%, which would represent a quadrupling of the crime rate over seven years. Voters from the Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti) guessed an even higher increase of 30%. In reality, the proportion dropped to 3.5% in 2019.
The majority of persons who themselves are non-western immigrants or their descendants were also found to have an exaggerated negative idea of integration, and when it came to guessing crime rates they were even farther from the facts than ethnic Danish respondents.
The huge gap between people’s impressions of reality and the reality itself was found to persist regardless of age, gender, education level, geography and political stance. Even a majority of voters from parties with a more friendly attitude towards foreigners (the Danish Social Liberal Party, the Red-Green Alliance and The Alternative) have an exaggerated understanding of the problems that exist in integration, whether in relation to education, crime, gender equality or democracy. However, younger respondents were found to have an understanding somewhat closer to the truth than older respondents, and women were found to have a more negative impression of integration than men. Respondents with a higher, more academic level of education answered the survey questions more correctly than those with a vocational education.
Survey questions and answers
("reply" is the median response from all interviewed):
- How many immigrants and descendants from non-western countries do you think Denmark has (percentage)? Reply: 19% Fact: 9%
- How many female immigrants from non-western countries do you think were working in 2019? Reply: 33% Fact: 52%
- How many male immigrants and descendants from non-western countries aged 16-19 do you think were under education in 2020/21? Reply: 41% Fact: 56%
- How many male immigrants and descendants from non-western countries aged 15-29 do you think were convicted of a felony in 2019? Reply: 20% Fact: 4%
- How many immigrants from non-western countries do you think express support to democracy as the best form of ruling? Reply: 50% Fact: 85%
- How many descendants from non-western countries aged 18-29 do you think reply that it's accepted in their family to have a girlfriend/boyfriend? Reply: 44% Fact: 75%
- How many immigrants from non-western countries do you think agree that men and women should have the same access to work? Reply: 44% Fact: 88%
The full survey results can be found online, here.
- Rasmus Brygger, Karen Nielsen Breidahl, Jørgen Ghoul Andersen
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