From welcome culture to welcome limits? Uncovering preference changes over time for sheltering refugees in Germany

Ulf Liebe*, Jürgen Meyerhoff, Maarten Kroesen, Caspar Chorus, Klaus Glenk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
67 Downloads (Pure)


Europe recently experienced a large influx of refugees, spurring much public debate about the admission and integration of refugees and migrants into society. Previous research based on cross-sectional data found that European citizens generally favour asylum seekers with high employability, severe vulnerabilities, and Christians over Muslims. These preferences and attitudes were found to be homogeneous across countries and socio-demographic groups. Here, we do not study the general acceptance of asylum seekers, but the acceptance of refugee and migrant homes in citizens’ vicinity and how it changes over time. Based on a repeated stated choice experiment on preferences for refugee and migrant homes, we show that the initially promoted “welcome culture” towards refugees in Germany was not reflected in the views of a majority of a sample of German citizens who rather disapproved refugee homes in their vicinity. Their preferences have not changed between November 2015, the peak of “welcome culture,” and November 2016, after political debates, media reporting and public discourse had shifted towards limiting admission of immigrants. A minority of one fifth of the sample population, who were initially rather approving of refugee and migrant homes being established in their vicinity, were more likely to change their preferences towards a rather disapproving position in 2016. Experience of contact with refugees and migrants, higher education, and general pro-immigration attitudes explain acceptance of refugee and migrant homes as well as preference stability over time. Country of origin and religion of refugees and migrants are considered less important than decent housing conditions and whether refugee and migrants arrive as families or single persons. In this respect our results highlight the importance of humanitarian aspects of sheltering and integration of refugees and other migrants into society.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0199923
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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