Anti-Immigration and Pro-Italy

September 29, 2011

A recent survey of global attitudes compared Italy to several other nations on a variety of issues and found that anti-immigrant sentiment is greater there than anywhere else and seems to go hand-in-hand with a strong sense of national pride and cultural superiority. Negativity about immigration peaks in Northern Italy, possibly because that region attracts more immigrants, but even in Southern Italy it's still greater than in any other nation.

Strong Concerns About Immigration

Immigration, however, may be the issue on which Italy is most distinctive. Like much of Western Europe, over the last few years Italy has wrestled with how to successfully integrate and assimilate its Muslim minority. Additionally, the recent influx of Romanian immigrants — especially Roma, or gypsies from Romania — into Italy has led to new controversies over immigration. The 2007 Pew poll included a number of questions on immigration, and on each of these, Italians held the most negative opinions of any Western public. Nearly two-thirds of Italians (64%) believe immigration is a very big problem for their country. In no other Western nation did a majority rate immigration a very big problem (Spain was the closest at 42%). In fact, Italy's level of concern was the highest, not only among Western countries, but among all 47 nations included in the survey.

Similarly, roughly three-in-four Italians (73%) say immigrants are having a bad effect on their country, considerably more than any other Western public, and second only to South Africa (75%) among the 47 nations in the study.

Fully 87% of Italians say there should be tighter restrictions on people coming into their country — up seven points from 2002, and again, the highest percentage among Western countries. Italian attitudes are overwhelmingly negative toward immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, as well as immigrants from Eastern Europe. Two-thirds say immigration from each of these areas is a bad thing.

National Pride

Despite all these signs of a rather dark mood, many Italians still reject the malaise argument, including Giuliano Amato, the country's interior minister. A week after Fisher's article appeared, Amato struck back in a letter to The New York Times, trumpeting his country's economy and health care system, and its recent successes in fighting the mafia.

Certainly, Amato is not alone in taking pride in his country, especially its culture. Italians are much more likely than their fellow Westerners to believe in their country's cultural pre-eminence. About two-in-three Italians (68%) agree with the statement "Our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior to others."

By contrast, in neighboring France — a country well known for having pride in its language and culture — only 32% say their culture is better than others. Italians are even more confident in their cultural superiority than Americans (55%), who themselves are well known for their strong national pride.

Richard Wike. "Italy's Malaise: La Vita Non É Cosí Dolce: Italians' Spirits Are Flagging — But Not Their Sense of Cultural Superiority". Pew Global Attitudes Project, 2008.

More than 1,000 immigrants have been evacuated from southern Italy after a recent wave of violence against African farm workers. Surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project over the past decade find that anti-immigrant sentiment is widespread in Italy.

For example, in 2007, Italians overwhelmingly said that immigration was a big problem in their country and that immigrants — both from the Middle East and North Africa and from Eastern European countries — were having a bad impact on Italy. More recently, in the fall of 2009, more than eight-in-ten Italians said they would like to see tighter restrictions on immigration.

Italians were more likely than any other public included in the 47-nation survey conducted in 2007 to see immigration as a big problem in their country. More than nine-in-ten Italians (94%) considered immigration to be a big problem, including 64% who said it was a very big problem in Italy.

By comparison, a much narrower majority of South Africans (53%) — the second most likely to rate immigration as a very big problem in their country — shared that view.

Majorities of Italians across demographic and regional groups saw immigration as a very big problem, but those who lived in the northern parts of the country were especially likely to say that was the case.

About three-quarters (74%) of those who lived in the north saw immigration as a very big problem in Italy, compared with 54% in the south, where the recent violence has been concentrated.

Juliana Menasce Horowitz. "Widespread Anti-Immigrant Sentiment in Italy". Pew Global Attitudes Project, 2010.

Related: Anti-Minority Sentiment, Nationalist Attitudes Highest in Italy


Anonymous said...

Great article! This provides some really important statistical support in what many anthropologists have recently shown with research.

Anonymous said...

Attitudes by themselves are always interesting but it'd be nicer if comparisons between attitudes and the *actual* impact of immigration on each country were made.

For example, perhaps immigrants to country X present problems that immigrants to country Y don't but at the same time attitudes in country Y are *more* anti-immigration than in country X. As it is, we can't see the former part, only the latter. We do have the "cultural superiority" answers but I guess I'm still not entirely satisfied.

louise said...

Italians tend to relate the word "immigration" to the recent invasion from middle-east & Africa.
These folks come here desperate, with literally nothing, any aim of doing, obviously dirty, mainly men... and with a completely different culture...
Think of Lampedusa: how can you be happy about a such a massive wave of men coming from another continent, invading such a small island, threatening locals with lightening a fire (I'm not joking), making the conditions of the island so bad there was the possibility of PLAGUE, I am saying PLAGUE!, treating everything like if it was theirs, criticising Italian police because some had to wait longer for their lunch...
I know they must be desperate but... what is the point to criticise, demand and "spit at the face of the people who are helping you"? After finally "settled down" (inverted comas because sure their life must not be very easy... but what did they expect from such a small country?) why do they say that they use our crucifix in the loo to clean their asses? I have seen them miming the gesture! Why did they demand our schools to get rid of religion time (which is not mandatory) and the crucifix on the wall of every room? And to keep it quiet, now we cannot show off our crucifix, which is a massive part of our culture, not only our religion. Then why did they want the Italian government (and damn they obtained just to keep them quiet) to build (with our money) temples or whatever for their allah or what the hell it is called?

louise said...

This is the type of immigration Italians think of...
Btw the conditions of life of these folks cannot be good, since they can't speak and write the language properly, accept our culture, they do not have a degree and even if they had that would not be valid here, etc...
I remember that, when I was a child, more than 20 years ago, north Africans were the first immigrants. We used to call them Moroccans. Even if some were from Nigeria, Algeria or whatever... They all were Moroccans to us... I remember we also called them "vucumprà" because they used to sell things at the beach or on the streets (you can still find some in the main cities of Italy...) saying "vucumprà" instead of "vuoi comprare?" - "do you want to buy?"
Afterwards Albanians came, when the communist regime collapsed, a wave of criminals escaped from the Albanian jails arrived. It was hard for Albanians to gain a good reputation again. I've got an Albanian friend now btw. Obviously she was not one of those criminals LoL She got married very young, she had a baby at the age of 23 which is freaking young to become a mum, as usually you are still at the uni at that age (Italian schools are the longest... If you are really really really good at school you can get a complete degree, ie finish uni at the age of 25, but you must work on your thesis when you are still taking the exams of the last year)... So, yeah, there are huge differences among Europeans, such as the fact her god is not mine, but... her culture is safe and she and her husband have always been very respectful!!!

louise said...

Finally middle-eastern people. I am afraid it will be hard, almost impossible, for them to find their place in Italy, above all after so many crimes recorded even among their communities (if you can call them like that...). How can I be happy about your arrival when I hear that if a girl (even your daughter!!!) behaves in a "western way", her punishment is the death. And I swear it happened. More than once. They brought this shame to my country. Is this an enrichment?
It is not a racial issue, it is not related to the fact that they look different or whatever. It's because of what you see, and read, and experience.
Any Italian, when they are questioned about immigration, will think of these folks. They will never think of a European, because that is not even immigration (ok bad example re the Albanians - sorry). They would not think of a North American, because it is very likely they had an Italian ancestor somewhere in their family tree and because the American culture is western. They would not think of a South American because again they may have an Italian decent and a western culture, or because most South American indians that came here have always respected us and our culture. Sorry I was going to forget Chinese people... they are so quiet they can keep their illegal traffics in silence... Shhhh

louise said...

Well, now fingers crossed Tunisia does not dispatch more men because "non c'è più trippa per gatti"
Italy has got its own problems, we cannot work on other countries' as well... sorry...
Beside the fact that... ITALY IS SMALL!!! It's less than half France!!! Go to France instead! LoL! That time, I'd apply for the closure of the borders... Can't wait!

Anonymous said...

@ luise
Of course Tunisians will go to France, that is why Sarkozy wanted to close the border! They would not have the language barrier and in France there are probably other Tunisians that can help them.
A part from the fact that you can't close the border for the reasons we all know and even if they could do it, there are plenty of passages on the coast and on the mountains: they were used during the war and they are still used now by the clandestines.

louise said...

Hi, just a quick note to inform you that immigration and xenophobia are exploding in Italy.
The country is very small and was little to offer to people coming from completely different cultures, people coming with nothing but hopes based on fairytales.
The 13th of December in Florence Gianluca Casseri shot at a bunch of Senegaleses and then took his own life. He did not know those folks. They were guilty of being "foreigners". Casseri was an insane, every country is plenty of crazy people, but the reason why he shoot at those guys is simply related to either racism or xenophobia. Obviously Italians do not go around and kill the foreigners, but personally I do not know many people who consider immigration a good or at least neutral factor, above all if illegal. Personally I'm scared too. I am scared because it seems that Africa is taking over to Europe. I am scared because of the fact that Arabian and African cultures are not aimed to development, progress, and any type of art. Sorry, but it is a matter of fact, not a matter of blood.
On the 18th there were demonstrations against racism in the main Italian cities (
I saw the pictures of those foreigners walking in our elegant streets. The statues that could not represent them even remotely... and I did freak out. I am not racist, but this is MY country, and our paintings speak of us. Our history was written by US!
Am I xenophobic? Am I disturbed by the fact that when a person that to me is an immigrant to the rest of the world is a "real Italian"? Am I disturbed by the fact that I do not appreciate Arabian and African cultures? Yes, I am!!!
Like the way I love to interpret the lyrics of Basta Così:
I'd rather there was the end of the world.

Anonymous said...

Italy just passed a bill to make it illegal to immigrate in the lower house. The UN can go themselves if they don't like it and white american libtards can go eat shit and DIE! If a north african said to me take off my crucifix i would tell him where to SHOVE IT and tell him to go back to Africa!You see these guys are such Losers that they are not even wanted in their own countries. So why the Hell is that Italia's problem?