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Europeans support a proportional allocation of asylum seekers

Nature Human Behaviour volume 1, Article number: 0133 (2017) | Download Citation


What type of common asylum regime would Europeans support? We conducted a survey asking 18,000 citizens of 15 European countries about their preferences regarding different mechanisms for allocating asylum seekers across countries. A large majority supports an allocation that is proportional to each country’s capacity over the status quo policy of allocation based on the country of first entry. This majority support is weakened but persists even among a randomly assigned subset of respondents who were made aware that moving to proportional allocation would increase the number of asylum seekers allocated to their own country. These results suggest that citizens care deeply about the fairness of the responsibility-sharing mechanism, rather than only the consequences of the asylum policy. The findings also highlight a potential pathway towards reform of the Common European Asylum System.

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We acknowledge funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant #100017_159820), which enabled data collection, and the Ford Foundation for operational support of the Immigration Policy Lab. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript. We thank T. Huddleston, D. Laitin, D. Lawrence, R. Reich and J. Spirig for helpful advice.

Author information


  1. Immigration Policy Lab, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA, and ETH Zurich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland.

    • Kirk Bansak
    • , Jens Hainmueller
    •  & Dominik Hangartner
  2. Department of Political Science, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA.

    • Kirk Bansak
    • , Jens Hainmueller
    •  & Dominik Hangartner
  3. Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA.

    • Jens Hainmueller
  4. Center for Comparative and International Studies, ETH Zurich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland.

    • Dominik Hangartner
  5. Department of Government, London School of Economics, London WC2A 2AE, UK.

    • Dominik Hangartner


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K.B., J.H. and D.H. conceived the research, designed the analyses, conducted the analyses and wrote the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dominik Hangartner.

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