Quality Newspapers vs. Populism : Shaping pro-immigration attitudes in five EU Member States

University of Duisburg‐Essen (Germany)
Heins, Volker M.

Much of the current debate about immigration, far‐right populism and the future of the EU is centred on the increasingly complex relationships between media and political attitudes. While research on populism is mostly about the negative attitudes towards Europe, immigration or the “elites”, this policy paper focuses on news media that strengthen pro‐immigration attitudes among the European public. This is relevant because positive attitudes towards immigration are predictors of positive attitudes towards the European Union. We show that quality newspapers constitute a “media membrane” which is often impervious to the demonizing rhetoric of far‐right populists. For precisely this reason, the free press has come under attack from governments controlled by populist leaders. Against the backdrop of large and growing differences within the EU with regard to civil liberties, the policy paper aims to identify, compare and contrast media discourses on refugee and immigration policies across a range of EU Member States. These discourses have to be understood in the context of specific national histories and imaginaries. All Member States are part of Europe as a “continent of immigration”, although this doesn’t necessarily imply that individual countries are willing to accept this reality or that they formulate adequate policies regulating the flow of migrants and accommodating their needs in light of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and its ideals: the universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity.


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