Migration has dominated European politics since the 2015 migrant crisis. But ahead of May's EU parliamentary elections, an ECFR study has shown that many Europeans are more concerned about emigration than immigration.
Six countries in southern and eastern Europe are more concerned about emigration than they are about immigration, according to a new European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR) survey published by The Guardian newspaper on Monday.
Survey respondents in Romania, Hungary, Greece, Poland, Italy and Spain said they were more worried about migration out of their respective countries than migration into them. All six countries have seen their population figures either flatten out or decrease sharply — Romania's population has decreased by 10 percent over the past decade.
In three of those countries — Spain, Italy and Greece — a majority of respondents said that they would support emigration controls.
However, in northern and western countries, concerns over immigration trumped fears over emigration. In the survey as a whole, 20 percent said emigration was a concern and 32 percent said immigration was.
Since the European migrant crisis of 2015, when member states of the European Union received 1.2 million first-time asylum applications, migration has dropped by more than 90 percent, according to the United Nations Council for Human Rights.
Issues in EU election
The survey, conducted by UK-based analytics firm YouGov, polled almost 50,000 people from 14 countries to establish the main issues entering May's elections for the European Parliament. The 14 nations polled are set to occupy 80 percent of seats in the new Parliament.
Migration was not the only issue people are worried about, although Hungarian President Viktor Orban and Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini have sought to put migration center stage ahead of the May vote. The survey found that corruption, nationalism, terrorism and climate change are also at the top of people's minds.
In regards to climate change, a majority of respondents believe the environment should take priority, even if it came at the expense of economic growth.
The EU's parliamentary vote is the second-largest electoral contest in the world, behind only India's elections. A total of 709 seats in the European Parliament will be up for grabs when voters in the EU's 27 member states (28 if the United Kingdom doesn't leave the bloc before the vote) head to the polls on May 23-26.