New Uncertainties and Anxieties in Europe

Seven Waves of the European Social Survey

by Franciszek Sztabiński (Volume editor) Henryk Domański (Volume editor) Paweł Sztabiński (Volume editor)
©2018 Edited Collection 286 Pages


This book aims to provide empirical evidence regarding the consequences of changes in European societies, focussing on migration and related phenomena of discrimination and xenophobia. The comparative analyses cover all countries of the European Social Survey in the period 2002–2014. They reveal that native members of so-called vulnerable groups, such as the unemployed, retired, permanently sick or disabled and the elderly, were more likely to experience threats and to exhibit anti-immigration attitudes. The contributors further examine social openness defined in terms of marital homogamy, social trust in the context of legitimization and social conditions of sleeplessness. A final methodological section presents the results of a mixed mode experiment involving the face-to-face mode.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Contributors
  • The relation between ethnic threat and economic insecurity in times of economic crisis: analysing data from the European Social Survey (Jaak Billiet / Bart Meuleman / Eldad Davidov)
  • What drives threat, attitudes towards migrants and identification with populist parties? Deprivation, values or racism? A comparative analysis of Poland and Germany (Peter Schmidt / Lucyna Darowska / Daniel Georg Gloris)
  • Attitudes towards immigration in Europe 2002–2014: competition, integration, and values (Zbigniew Karpiński / Kinga Wysieńska-Di Carlo)
  • What makes a “good immigrant”? Perception of ideal migrants and unwanted foreigners in the ESS 2002–2014/2015 (Katarzyna Andrejuk)
  • Trust in democratic institutions and civic engagement of ethno-discriminated and xenophobes: new analyses (Irina Tomescu-Dubrow / Kazimierz M. Slomczynski)
  • Trust, legitimacy and their crises: reflections about Poland (Andrzej Rychard)
  • Patterns of spouse selection in European countries 2002–2014 (Henryk Domański / Dariusz Przybysz / Artur Pokropek)
  • Sleeplessness in Europe (Antonina Ostrowska / Teresa Żmijewska-Jędrzejczyk)
  • Does mixed mode data collection improve the achieved sample? A comparison of the ESS 7 and a mixed mode experiment (Paweł B. Sztabiński)
  • Series index

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In 2015 we published Hopes and Anxieties in Europe. Six Waves of the European Social Survey. It was a volume of articles presented at an international conference held in Warsaw in January 2014, which aspired to show selected findings from the ESS 2002–2012. Authors of these studies analysed relationships between legitimacy, trust, and social capital, the roles of social cohesion in determination of political culture, and changes in the perception of well-being with regard to the economic crisis in Europe. Apart from providing an overview of key theoretical perspectives, and concepts applied to diverse phenomena, the book also contained articles devoted to methodological approaches applied in ESS. The methodological part focused on the cross-national comparability of data and nonresponse bias.

In revisiting that book, we are heartened to discover its continued usefulness and relevance. After only two years since the publication of Hopes and Anxieties in Europe, a number of new processes have emerged, such as globalization of labour markets, intensified competition, and accelerated spread of networks and new technologies. The dependence on random shocks has become a central point of reference for researchers and policy-makers. The central aim of this book is to determine the consequences of such sweeping changes on social relations with respect to uncertainty. The phenomenon of uncertainty is an inherently complex concept (Beck 1985). Yet in recent years, it has become a crucial point of reference for media, politicians and academics seeking to understand social change. Our primary hypothesis is that the increased uncertainty is strongly dependent on the growing immigration from countries outside the EU. Europe remains a major recipient of migrants − 12 million citizens live in an EU country other than their own. Today’s migration has features that both mark out economic growth and fuel disorders.

On the one hand, migration is claimed to prove the democratic nature of the EU and to facilitate the rise of a low-wage disposable labour supply. Traditionally, in European countries such as Germany, with their low fertility rates and ageing populations, business organisations have been equally opposed to curbs on migration, especially of skilled labour. Capital welcomes migration because it brings low-cost malleable labour. The groups most vehemently opposed to migration are the working class and the lower middle class, squeezed by globalisation and falling into the precariat. As regards the effect of migration on the democratic order, integration of European countries was expected to inspire common values necessary for political and economic betterment. According to the ideological ← 9 | 10 → premises of the EU, the idea of integration was expected to bring the merits of sustainable development and of openness: values of inclusion, tolerance and common space for social activity. This assumed extension of universal values to obliterate divisions between European and non-Europeans and create a European identity.

On the other hand, the practical adaptation of liberal ideas appeared strictly limited. The inflow of immigrants, especially refugees from the Muslim countries, revealed contradictory attitudes to integration defined as active participation and common responsibility. Anger erupted mostly among the newest, and relatively poorer members of the EU that had recognized access to the European Union as an opportunity for modernization, access to financial resources, opening of the labour markets, a rise in affluence, and new consumer fashions.

What we can say is that in order for open and liberal integration to develop, two meta-conditions are needed – acceptance of various cultures and a feeling of security. In fact, Southern European countries and post-socialist regimes, which are perhaps more traditional and more closed than e.g. Scandinavian countries, faced more difficulties in approving representatives of Islam. It is not only the flux of immigration but also the threat of terrorism that has dismantled acceptance of newcomers from non-European countries. Waves of terrorist attacks join migration in prompting anxiety and prejudice against Islam. People are saying that legal immigrants should not have an equal right to benefits, and believe that migrants increase crime.

To be sure, anxiety and tensions are not only affected by the threat of migration and do not limit themselves to discrimination and xenophobic tensions. They result also from impediments typical for all social systems, such as social inequality, poverty, drawbacks of the welfare state, clashes between populism and democratic order, a north-south divide, and so on. One well-known vulnerability is created by demographic factors related to the growing numbers of the elderly, of extra-marital birth, and to upward trends in the mean age at first motherhood. Some of these questions are analysed in this volume.

Our comparative analysis in this book includes all countries participating in the European Social Survey in 2002−2014. The chapters that follow are divided into three groups. The first, the largest, consists of studies concerning migration, xenophobia, and discrimination related to ethnic divisions. We begin with an article by Jaak Billiet, Bart Meuleman, and Eldad Davidov. The theoretical background of this study refers mostly to a dynamic version of Group Conflict Theory (GCT) stating that prejudices against outsiders are defensive reactions to perceived intergroup competition for scarce goods. In testing GCT Billiet et al. applied 5 analytical designs combining multi-group, multi-level models and longitudinal data, that vary ← 10 | 11 → depending on the number of countries, the time factor, contextual variables, cross-level interactions, and links between cross-national and cross-temporal perspectives. We should recall here that unlike that of the early twentieth century, much of today’s migration is not a matter of assimilation to new citizenship but forms more of a process of de-citizenship. Confirming group conflict theory, this study reveals that economic threat perceptions are significantly related to economic conditions, i.e. growing unemployment and decreasing rates of economic growth strengthen feelings of economic threat in Europe.

The next chapter focuses on the two Middle European countries, namely Poland and Germany divided into its Western and Eastern parts. Peter Schmidt, Lucyna Darowska, and Daniel Georg Gloris examine the effects of left-right political orientation, deprivation, and racist attitudes on attitudes towards migrants, on cultural and economic threat and on identification with two rightist parties, namely with the AfD (Alternative for Germany) and with PiS (Law and Justice) in Poland. Eight hypotheses are tested using separate structural equation models. The analysis discloses important differences between Poland and Germany with respect to the means of explained variables and the strengths of relationships. Whereas, as expected, in Eastern and Western Germany a moderate significant relation exists between right wing orientation and tradition and conformity values, this relationship appears as not significant in Poland. The authors tend to attribute this finding to the different meanings of left and right in Germany and Poland. As regards association between racism and cultural threat, this is slight in Poland and Western Germany but not in the setting of Eastern Germany. At the same time, Schmidt et al. observe a strong negative effect of universalism upon biological racism in Western and Eastern Germany, but such a relationship does not occur in Poland.

Following the topic of migration, Zbigniew Karpiński and Kinga Wysieńska-Di Carlo attempt to detect to what extent attitudes to migrants depend on economic and cultural threats regarded as complementary in view of the ethnic competition theory. Using multi-level models they employ, apart from individual measures, such as position on the labour market, income, level of education etc., contextual variables such as the rate of unemployment, migration rate and integration policies (Migrant Integration Policy Index) adding the cross-level interaction. This analysis confirms previously observed relationships between self-interest and perceived threat and public attitudes towards immigration. For instance, throughout 2002–2014, native members of the societies studied were more likely to experience threat and exhibit anti-immigration attitudes if they were members of so-called vulnerable groups: the unemployed, the retired, the permanently sick ← 11 | 12 → or disabled, women (although the relationship was weaker than is usually found) and ageing cohorts. However, the results only agree slightly with the predictions of the competitive threat hypothesis. They are more consistent with normative theory of group relations, with its focus on integration policies concerning, for example, the inclusiveness of a country’s policy in terms of e.g. granting rights.

Next, Katarzyna Andrejuk raises the question of perception and openness towards migrants. Data from ESS 2002 and 2014/15 are used to depict respondents’ evaluations of the migrants’ commitment to a country’s way of life, of knowledge of that host country’s language, of educational qualifications, of having the work skills necessary in a given country, and of Christian and racial background. Another topic concerns acceptance of ethnic groups and religious denominations (Jews, Muslims, Roma). This analysis proves that respondents from many countries became more open and tolerant with regard to their expectations towards potential immigrants. It also reveals that respondents from the post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe are less prone to praise multiculturalism.

The last chapter in the group concerning migration, written by Irina Tomescu-Dubrow and Kazimierz M. Słomczyński, is of special interest in a dealing with the patterns of political engagement. Two groups are contrasted − people who experience discrimination because of their ethnicity − and those with xenophobic attitudes, who are hostile towards the ethnic ‘others’. The groups are compared according to trust in democratic institutions, attendance at demonstrations and belonging to voluntary organizations. The group differences in political engagement are explained by structural factors and socio-psychological variables (focusing on people’s attitudes such as interest in politics). The impact of belonging to extreme groups on trust in democratic institutions is relatively strong and negative. In comparison with the majority of society, people who consider themselves to be discriminated against on grounds of ethnic origin tend to protest more, whereas xenophobes are inclined to protest less. However, belonging to a group of people discriminated against on grounds of ethnicity has a positive and significant impact on volunteering in civil society organisations while xenophobes involve themselves in this type of activity significantly less than the rest of society.

In the second part of this collection we consider legitimization, stratification, and health. Thus, Andrzej Rychard points out the specificity of trust and legitimization in Poland in recent years, relating these changes to general changes undergone in Europe. According to his argumentation, questioning of the traditional model of modernization based on the market, democracy and the pattern of European integration to date is not only a local, Polish affair. Criticising the popular thesis about the low level of trust in Polish society, Rychard emphasizes its peculiarities and the ← 12 | 13 → “de-politicization” of trust in the institutional system, paralleling the de-politicization of legitimization. As he notes, one should take into account substitutes for legitimization, alongside substitutes for trust that place themselves outside politics and are omitted in debates on these issues. Given some decline of the underpinnings of legitimization based on aspirations towards the market, democratic system, and EU, new sources of legitimization have emerged, related to ‘unlocking of the system’, particularly for those who perceive themselves as losers.

Turning to social stratification, Henryk Domański, Dariusz Przybysz, and Artur Pokropek take up the question of marital choices in European countries. Both cross-national and temporal analytical designs are applied to discover differences between countries and over changes in time in the association between education and socio-occupational positions of spouses. Two results are notable. First, as regards cross-national patterns in marital barriers between educational and occupational categories of spouses, they are mostly consistent with previous studies showing lower openness of post-communist and Mediterranean societies when compared with Western countries. Second, Domański et al. show that patterns of marital homogamy in 2002−2014 were basically stable in time.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (October)
Perceived ethnic threat Attitudes toward migrants Competitive threat Perception of migrants Ethnic discrimination Legitimization, trust Spouse selection Sleeplessness Mixed mode data collection
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018., 285 pp., 26 fig. b/w, 59 tables

Biographical notes

Franciszek Sztabiński (Volume editor) Henryk Domański (Volume editor) Paweł Sztabiński (Volume editor)

Franciszek Sztabiński is Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology at the Polish Academy of Sciences. His main research interests include survey methodology, in particular issues of mode effects and mixed mode data collection. Henryk Domański is Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology at the Polish Academy of Sciences. His main fields of interest are social stratification and mobility, and methodology of social research. He has authored numerous books, primarily on labour market segmentation, sex inequality, and comparative social stratification. Paweł B. Sztabiński is Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology at the Polish Academy of Sciences. His main research interests include survey methodology, in particular non-response issues and mixed mode data collection.


Title: New Uncertainties and Anxieties in Europe
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