Canada most accepting country for migrants, U.S. 6th place: poll

Shelby Thevenot
Published: October 4, 2020

Canada appears to be the world's most accepting country for migrants, according to a new global survey.

Gallup, an analytics and advisory company based in the U.S., conducted a wide-scale public opinion poll in 2019. There were 145 countries included in the study, and about 1,000 people from each country were surveyed. Researchers contacted people by phone or conducted interviews face-to-face.

People were asked whether they think migrants living in their country, becoming their neighbours, and marrying into their families are good things or bad things. Gallup then created an index of the answers, scoring each country on a scale of 0 to 9. Higher scores meaning the population was more accepting of migrants and lower scores meaning the country was less accepting of migrants.

Canada scored the highest of any country surveyed, earning a total of 8.46 out of a possible 9.0 points on Gallup's Migrant Acceptance Index. The U.S. ranked sixth overall with a score of 7.95.

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Both countries increased from their ranks in 2017 when Canada was the fourth most accepting country, and the U.S. was the ninth most accepting.

Since then, immigration policies in both countries have taken opposite paths. Canada has pushed for more immigration while the U.S. government has reduced it. Despite these diverging political strategies, public opinion on migration seems relatively positive in both countries.

The results from Canadians were slightly higher than those from U.S. residents in all three questions.

Survey QuestionCanadian acceptanceU.S. acceptance
...migrants living in your country?94%87%
...migrants living in your neighbourhood? 95%90%
...migrants marrying into your family?91%85%

The report written by Neli Esipova, Julie Ray, and Dato Tsabutashvili, drew some interesting conclusions from comparing results between Canada and the U.S.

Migrant acceptance follows political fault lines

As in 2017, the polls suggest that there is a co-relation between migrant acceptance and political affiliation.

In the U.S., people who approved of Trump as president were less accepting of migrants than those who did not. Whereas, Canadians who approved of Trudeau were more accepting of migrants than those who disapproved of the prime minister. These results were consistent when asked about the country's leadership. Those who approved of  the leadership in the U.S. were less accepting of migrants, and those who approved of the leadership in Canada were more accepting.

Gallup used the Migrant Acceptance Index to quantify approval levels by political slant. Higher scores co-relate with higher acceptance towards migrants.

Political Divides on Migration in Canada, U.S.
Migrant Acceptance Index U.S.Migrant Acceptance Index Canada
Approve of Trump7.10Approve of Trudeau8.73
Disapprove of Trump8.59Disapprove of Trudeau8.21
Approve of country's leadership7.10Approve of country's leadership8.59
Disapprove of country's leadership8.49Disapprove of country's leadership8.31

The researchers found that, in the U.S., there are differences in migrant acceptance among those who personally identify most with their city and country compared with those who identify most with their race or religion. U.S. respondents who identified most with their geographical location were more accepting (8.16) than those who identified with their social location (7.69). In Canada, there were no differences in migrant acceptance based on how people identified themselves.

Age affects acceptance differently in Canada and U.S.

The patterns of acceptance by age in the two countries were also different. U.S. respondents were less accepting with age, dropping nearly a full point on the Migrant Acceptance Index between the 15-29 cohort and people over age 65.

In Canada there was, "no real statistical differences by age group," the report said. The 15-29 age group scored an 8.32, the lowest of all age groups, though a footnote indicated that the difference was not significant because of smaller sample sizes.

Migrant Acceptance by Age in Canada, U.S.
AgeMigrant Acceptance Index U.S.Migrant Acceptance Index Canada

In addition, the Gallup poll found that migrant acceptance is higher among those are living in urban areas and who have more education. These findings were consistent with the 2017 poll results.

Top 10 most accepting countries in the world for migrants

Here is Gallup's complete list of most accepting countries for migrants in 2019, according to their Migrant Acceptance Index.

Most Accepting Countries for Migrants
CountryMigrant Acceptance Index
New Zealand8.32
Sierra Leone8.14
United States7.95
Burkina Faso7.93

The margin of error was calculated per country at the 95% confidence level, and ranged from ±1.9 percentage points to ±5.4 percentage points. Data samples were influenced by data weighting, sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties that could have caused responses to include error or bias in the findings. Gallup weighted the data samples to match the national demographics of each country.

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