Working Paper

What asylum and refugee policies do Europeans want? Evidence from a cross-national conjoint experiment

EUI Working Papers, RSCAS 2019/73 Download PDF


This article provides the first-ever analysis of the structure of public preferences for asylum and refugee policy, a highly politicized policy area that has attracted little scholarly attention to date. We first conceptualise the core dimensions of asylum and refugee policy and then conduct an original conjoint experiment with 12,000 respondents across eight European countries to examine how different policy designs impact on public support. Our results demonstrate that Europeans are generally committed to policies that provide protection to asylum-seekers and refugees but this commitment tends to be contingent upon policy features which allow for a means of control, namely through the implementation of limits or conditions. We find this pattern of preferences to be remarkably similar in both the old and more recent EU Member States that we surveyed. Our results imply that some aspects of the current model of the international refugee system are misaligned with the more control-based model that Europeans would prefer. We conclude by discussing our findings in the context of existing research and ongoing political debates about policy reforms.