Why are young people more welcoming of refugees than older generations? In 2017, a survey of global millennials conducted by the World Economic Forum (WEF) found that an overwhelming majority (72.6%) of people aged between 18 and 35 would welcome refugees into their country.
In the United States, a survey carried out by the PEW Research showed that under 35s are much less likely to view refugees as a threat compared to people over 65. Likewise, in Britain, a 2016 BBC poll found that people aged 18-34 were “significantly more likely” than those aged 65+ to say their country should take more refugees.
Why is that? Is it because, as the old saying goes, if you’re not a liberal at 25 you have no heart, and if you’re not a conservative at 35 you have no brain? Or is it because young people travel more, meet more people of different faiths and ethnicities, and are generally more comfortable with a globalised world than their parents and grandparents?
In order to take a closer look at the local impact of the refugee crisis, we have launched our ‘Cities & Refugees‘ project – aimed at fostering a Europe-wide dialogue between citizens, refugees and asylum seekers, NGOs, politicians, and European leaders. The emphasis is on connecting local, everyday life at the city level to decisions made in Brussels and national capitals.
Today, we are looking at Budapest. On 8 April 2018, Hungary held parliamentary elections which saw the ruling Fidesz party sweep to victory and retain its two-thirds majority. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán campaigned primarily on issues of immigration and opposition to refugees, with national ad campaigns accusing foreigners of meddling in domestic Hungarian politics.
Fidesz won support from all sectors of the electorate, including young people. However, Budapest bucked the national trend. Two-thirds of voting districts in the capital were carried by liberal opposition candidates. After the elections, young people from Budapest were out in force, protesting against the results. So, what’s going on?
What do our readers think? We had a comment from Béla, who points out that just because the Orbán governement is anti-refugee doesn’t mean everybody in Hungary shares the same views. Are younger Hungarians (particularly in big cities, such as Budapest), less prejudiced against refugees than older Hungarians?
To get an answer, we spoke to Timo Rinke, Project Director of Flight, Migration, and Integration in Europe at the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Budapest. What would he say?
It’s true that, across Europe, there is a trend that young people are fundamentally more open and more liberal towards refugees than older people. However, in Hungary things are different. Young people are just as hostile to refugees, and polling conducted last year suggest only 27% of young people [in Hungary] are in favour of granting asylum to refugees…
There are, of course, regional differences. So, for example, [attitudes toward refugees among young people] in Budapest are much more open than in other parts of the country. We can see this attitude expressed in the recent election results, with [the governing, right-wing] Fidesz party being by far the most powerful political force among all age groups in the country, significantly increasing its voter base compared to other parties. If you look specifically at the age group 18-29, then 38% of young voters supported Fidesz and 31% voted for the radical nationalist party Jobbik… However, in addition to Fidesz and Jobbik, the [liberal] Momentum party was also relatively popular with young voters…
To get another perspective, we put the same question to Dr. Csaba Tóth, co-founder and strategic director of the Republican Institute, a liberal Hungarian think-tank. What would he say?
Of course, not everybody supports the Orbán government in Hungary. The government party got less than 50 percent of the vote in 2018 – so half the population did not vote for it.
However, there is only a small generational gap: Fidesz is losing the youngest people, but not by a big margin; they have about 40% support among the youngest people. Young people are more likely to vote for new parties – like the generational movement Momentum – but Fidesz remains popular in every age group.
Why are young people more receptive towards refugees? Is it because they travel more and have more opportunities to meet people of different ethnicities and cultures? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!
If you’re interested in learning about how millenials are responding to the refugee crisis, then our partner think tank, Friends of Europe, has published a report highlighting various youth-led integration projects from across the EU.