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Danes have become more tolerant, study shows

Mistrust of foreigners used to be far, far worse. Danes have opened up

A new University of Copenhagen study shows that Danes, over the last 30 years, have become more and more open to strangers

The result flies in the face of claims that the present centre-right government is tapping into new Danish anti-immigrant feeling: Danes have in fact become less xenophobic.

Since 2001 the present governing coalition, dependent on the mandate of the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party, has pushed for ever tighter immigration restrictions. Analysts have often claimed that they have been able to gain power on a wave of anti-immigration feeling.

But the new book Small and Large Changes, edited by Peter Gundelach, presents the result of a survey of Danes’ ‘values’, broadly defined as how Danes want to live, that goes against this theory.

Less for discrimination

As the same survey questions were asked several times since 1981, it can measure how Danish attitudes to family, marriage, jobs, religion, politics, and foreigners, have changed since 1981.

While 18 per cent of Danes, for example, preferred not to have immigrants as their neighbours in 1981, only seven per cent say they would not prefer immigrants nextdoor in 2008.

While 53 per cent thought Danes should be able to discriminate against foreigners on the labour market in 1990, the figure had dropped to 25 per cent in 2008.

Less restrictive

And while 69 per cent of Danes wanted a restrictive immigration policy in 1999, only 56 per cent wanted a restrictive policy in 2008.

In the public debate, the theory is often aired that Danes are split into two irreconcilable groups on immigration and foreigners: some for, some against. The study shows that this is not the case, according to Peter Gundelach. There is a wide movement towards more tolerance across all political preferences.

»More and more people say that you should let foreigners come to Denmark if the jobs are there, and less and less support the more restrictive claim that you should limit the number of foreigners entering the country,« he writes in the study.

More trusting

Danes generally show a high level of trust in their fellow men and women, the authors write. And in another study result, Danes show more trust towards their fellow human beings than 30 years ago.

Asked the question: Do you believe that people can be trusted? 67 per cent of respondents say yes in 2008, while only 51 per cent said yes in 1981.

This is good for Denmark, as other recent studies have pointed to trust as a key element in economic growth and success.

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