Europeans’ support for refugees of varying background is stable over time
Protracted global conflicts during the past decade have led to repeated major humanitarian protection crises in Europe. During the height of the Syrian refugee crisis at the end of 2015, Europe hosted around 2.3 million people requesting asylum. Today, the ongoing war in Ukraine has resulted in one of the largest humanitarian emergencies in Europe since World War II, with more than eight million Ukrainians seeking refuge across Europe. Here we explore whether repeated humanitarian crises threaten to exhaust solidarity and whether Europeans welcome Ukrainian asylum seekers over other asylum seekers. We conducted repeat conjoint experiments during the 2015–2016 and 2022 refugee crises, asking 33,000 citizens in 15 European countries to evaluate randomly varied profiles of asylum seekers. We find that public preferences for asylum seekers with specific attributes have remained remarkably stable and general support has, if anything, increased slightly over time. Ukrainian asylum seekers were welcomed in 2022, with their demographic, religious and displacement profile having a larger role than their nationality. Yet, this welcome did not come at the expense of support for other marginalized refugee groups, such as Muslim refugees. These findings have implications for our theoretical understanding of the drivers and resilience of public attitudes towards refugees and for policymakers tasked to find effective responses to the enduring stress on the asylum system.