Our Finding
25. 4. 2016

Czech citizens are now less accepting of foreign nationals than before

A quarter of Czech citizens (25 %) agree that every person who lives in this country should have the right to obtain Czech citizenship. The same proportion of the population believes that each ethnic group should be able to live according to its own traditions. These proportions are considerably lower than in previous surveys. Before the beginning of the refugee crisis in 2014, the percentage of citizens who agreed with the above opinions was 33 % and 46 %, respectively.

A quarter of Czech citizens (25 %) agree that every person who lives in this country should have the right to obtain Czech citizenship. The same proportion of the population believes that each ethnic group should be able to live according to its own traditions. These proportions are considerably lower than in previous surveys. Before the beginning of the refugee crisis in 2014, the percentage of citizens who agreed with the above opinions was 33 % and 46 %, respectively. The proportion of citizens who consider foreigners living in the Czech Republic to be too great a security risk is also on the increase (up from 60 % to 71 %). Somewhat fewer people than before (41 %) agree with the view that our citizens are not prejudiced or biased in their attitudes towards foreign nationals.The survey cited here was conducted by the STEM non-profit institute (www.stem.cz) on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 and over from 16 to 23 March 2016. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with some 1,050 people taking part in the survey.Over the years, STEM has been monitoring the relationship between Czech citizens and people who are resident here but do not have Czech citizenship. STEM began conducting surveys on this subject ten years ago as part of its TRENDS series. This has enabled us to track the dynamics of opinion change with regard to the attitudes of Czech citizens towards non-nationals, primarily in connection with the wave of migration into Europe.The current survey found that a three-quarters majority of Czechs do not agree that every person living in the Czech Republic should be entitled to obtain Czech citizenship, nor do they believe that each ethnic group should be able to live according to their owns traditions and customs. This is closely linked to the fact that a similarly high proportion of the population (71 %) considers foreign nationals living in our country to be too great a risk. A three-fifths majority of citizens also believe that the Czech public are prejudiced against foreign nationals.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2016, 1050 respondents aged 18 +

Over the past two years, Czech attitudes towards foreign nationals have changed substantially. This is evidently linked to the refugee crisis. The most significant change has been in the proportion of citizens who believe that each ethnic group should be able to live according to its traditions and customs. Two years ago almost half the population agreed they should be; now this view is held only by a quarter of citizens (a decrease of 21 % in the proportion of affirmative answers). This shift in opinion is also apparent in attitudes towards the right of foreign nationals to obtain Czech citizenship, albeit to a lesser extent (a fall of 8 percentage points since 2014). The proportion of citizens who consider foreign nationals to be a greater security risk has also risen, up 11 % on 2014 figures. At the same time, there is public awareness of these changes in society, as reflected in the decrease in the proportion of people who agree with the statement that Czech citizens are not prejudiced against foreigners.

Source: STEM, Trends 2005-2016

However, it is important to add that although Czech public opinion shows a decrease in acceptance of foreigners, this does not indicate any dramatic rise in tensions, but rather that citizens are more wary of certain ethnicities (needless to say, this is linked to media coverage of the refugee crisis). Indeed, the data demonstrates that people with different opinions on whether each ethnic group should be able to live according to its own traditions and customs in no way differ in their attitudes towards, for instance, Americans, English, French and Germans or, for that matter, Russians, Ukrainians and Vietnamese. The survey found that the decrease in the number of people who accepted that ethnic groups should be able to live according to their own traditions only applied to attitudes towards Arabs, Turks, Syrians, Afghans, Egyptians and Chechens.Opinions on the rights of foreigners living in this country and their position in society are very similar across the various socio-demographic groups of the population. Public perception of the attitudes of Czech citizens towards foreigners is largely universal. What’s more, differences in opinions are also largely insignificant across socio-demographic groups in terms of whether foreigners should be able to obtain Czech citizenship and whether ethnic minorities should be able to live according to their distinct cultural practices. In terms of the latter, the only category where certain differences are evident is ‘differences by age’, with the over 60s being least tolerant in this respect.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2016, 1050 respondents aged 18 +

When asked whether foreign nationals living here pose too serious a risk, those with a lower level of education were more likely to think so.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2016, 1050 respondents aged 18 +*Secondary School Leaving Certificate, equiv.A Levels in the UK, High School Diploma in the US

In general terms, it is important to note that the level of change in attitudes towards foreign nationals has been similar across all sociodemographic groups.Political preferences do not play any fundamental role in the opinions analysed in this report either. The only significant difference was recorded in responses to the statement that foreigners posed a security risk. Supporters of the Communist Party (KSČM), the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) and the centrist ANO movement more frequently regarded foreigners as a great risk whereas, by contrast, supporters of the conservative TOP 09 were significantly less likely to do so. On this issue, is also interesting to compare the results of this survey with the one conducted two years ago (viz. graph below). The greatest increase in the proportion of people who agreed with the below statement was among ANO supporters.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2014, 3/2016Note: KSČM (Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia);KDU-ČSL is the Christian Democrats and also one of junior coalition partners;ČSSD is the ruling Czech Socialist Democratic Party; ANO is centrist party and one of the junior coalition partners;ODS is the liberal-conservative Civic Democratic Party, a right-wing opposition party;TOP 09, a conservative opposition party

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