French attitudes to migration relatively unmoved by Paris attacks

November 29, 2015, 3:17 PM GMT+0

In stark contrast to public opinion in Britain, French attitudes to refugees have been relatively unmoved by the Paris terror attacks

In the wake of the Paris attacks some European nations have raised their opposition to refugees and migrants coming through Europe's borders, and the resettling of Syrian refugees has become an unlikely matter of debate in the Republican presidential nominee race underway in the US. Key to their concern is a piece of evidence that could implicate a Syrian refugee in the Paris attacks of Friday 13 – a fake passport found near the body of a suicide bomber who attacked the Stade de France bearing the name and details of a Syrian national who may have passed through Greece as a migrant in October.

So far, all eight of the people officially named in connection with the Paris attacks have been European nationals, however, and as yet it is unclear if the fingerprints of the man carrying the passport in Greece match those of the Stade de France assailant, or if the man in question was a Syrian national. But in Britain attitudes to Syrian refugees have significantly hardened nevertheless.

Last week we found a sharp decrease in the willingness of British people to accept refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria, with the percentage saying we should accept none at all almost doubling from 14% in September to 26%.

Research from YouGov in France, conducted over a similar time period, shows no equivalent shift in opinion. There has been a small reversal in favourability to France allowing more political refugees since September, from net +6 to net -3, but still twice as many (40%) French people say more of this kind of refugee should be permitted into France than British people say about Syrians fleeing the war (20%).

Political refugees are still the most welcomed group of the five mentioned, even ahead of skilled economic migrants despite their potential gains for industry.


On the Monday after the attacks Francois Hollande said France was "at war" in a rare speech to both houses of parliament in Versailles. The acts committed on Friday night in Paris and at the Stade are acts of war,” he said. “This constitutes an attack against our country, against its values, against its youth, against its way of life."

Fully 71% of French people say the term "war" is appropriate to France's current situation, while only 23% disagree. Young people are slightly less likely to say the term is appropriate, however – 61% of 18-24s compared to 78% of those aged over 55.

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See the full poll results