Attitudes towards refugees and Muslim immigrants in Iceland: The perceived link to terrorism

Margrét Valdimarsdóttir, Guðbjörg Andrea Jónsdóttir


In the past few years, millions have been forced to leave their homes seeking refuge in other countries, most displaced from Muslim majority countries. The inflow of refugees and recent terrorist attacks in Europe may have reinforced prejudice against Muslim immigrants in Europe. Research on these issues is almost non-existent in Iceland. Using a random sample of 3.360 individuals in late 2019 and a survey-based experimental design, we address several questions related to attitudes towards Muslim immigrants and refugees in Iceland. Our results indicate that just over half of the population is willing to accept more refugees than is currently done and does not want to limit the proportion of Muslims among them. Notwithstanding, about 44% of the public believe that the risk of terrorism will increase if Iceland accepts more immigrants from Muslim majority countries. Political orientation and education are associated with attitudes toward refugees, an association that is partly mediated through stereotypes of Muslims as a security threat. The findings also show that people who are informed that research finds no link between the number of Muslim immigrants and the risk of terrorism are less likely to stereotype Muslim immigrants as a security threat than people who get no such information. This type of information has similar effects on people irrespective of their political orientation. Consequently, the current study does not support the proposition that right-leaning individuals in Iceland are more distrustful of scientific information than those on the left. The effects are, however, significantly contingent on education.


Attitudes towards immigrants; refugees; Muslim immigrants; fear of terrorism; Muslim stereotypes.


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