Following Belarusian migrant crisis, Latvian residents’ opinion of immigration has changed to «moderately positive»

Even before the migration crisis, which is believed by many to have been orchestrated by Belarus, the general opinion of Latvian residents towards immigrants and immigration was in the process of gradually changing from negative to moderately positive, said Mārtiņš Kaprāns, one of the authors of a study of Latvian residents’ opinion towards immigration and immigrants by researchers of University of Latvia Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, on Wednesday, 8 December.
The objective of the study was determining how Latvian residents’ opinions form about immigrants and immigration in general. The study is based on results of a survey data acquired in June 2021. This is two months before the Belarusian migrant crisis started, Kaprāns said at the presentation of the study.
«It is possible something may yet change. This is what we intend to discuss at the next presentation. According to available data, we can see there is some progress if we compare it to the situation we had ten years ago,» said Kaprāns.
5 803 respondents took part in the study. Respondent were asked several questions. Among them was the question about Latvian residents’ opinion of immigration and how important it is when voting in Saeima elections. Of the 5 803 respondents 4 010 said they participate in Saeima elections.
19% said the issue of immigration affects their judgement when voting. 38% said they do not pay attention to this topic. To 43% of respondents this topic is not very important at all.
The migration topic is very important to men aged 55 to 74 years, representatives of ethnic minorities and respondents who do not enjoy living in an ethnically and culturally diverse environment or residents who do not accept a cosmopolitan identity model.
Survey data shows that most of Latvian residents (56%) consider their immediate area as ethnically fragmented.
8% of respondents, among which most are residents of Latvian small cities and villages, believe mostly Latvian people live in their immediate area. Respondents from Riga and Latgale mentioned that mostly non-Latvians live in their immediate area.
Authors of the study also concluded that Latvian residents’ attitude towards ethnic diversity and nationality reveals major differences between different groups. Mostly residents voiced positive opinions about people of different nationalities. Many residents also took a neutral position, which indicates Latvian residents are mostly positive towards people of different nationalities.
Negative attitude towards ethnic diversity was mostly voiced by men aged 65 to 74 years, respondents of Latvian nationality, residents who grew up in an ethnically homogeneous families or live in an ethnically homogeneous areas, as well as residents who live in small cities, villages and the countryside. 53% of respondents also do not consider themselves «residents of the world», which indirectly indicates the role of nationality in Latvian residents’ self-identity.
At the same time, among the residents who do not identify as residents of the world, there is a low probability to meet people who like living among in a community together with people of other nationality and people who speak another language. A different picture is observed among more cosmopolitan-minded residents. A cosmopolitan identity is more often found among younger residents aged 18 to 34 years, men, residents of Latgale and Riga, residents of Latvia’s biggest cities, respondents from ethnically mixed families and representatives of ethnic minorities.
Residents’ social beliefs have a well-established ethnic hierarchy with most and least desirable groups of immigrants. At the same time, Latvian residents’ arguments based on pragmatic and meritocracy-based values deserve some praise.
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The study was performed by LU FSI researchers Mārtiņš Kaprāns, Andris Saulītis and Inta Mieriņa. The study itself was financed by Konrad Adenauer Foundation.