Policy Article

Comforting immigration critics? Public opinion toward development aid as a tool to reduce refugee inflows to Germany

MEDAM Policy Brief, 2019/1

Key Messages

  • In principle, both immigration critics and supporters of refugee protection in Germany might support more development aid to combat the root causes of migration. Immigration critics might look for a reduction in refugee flows, whereas supporters of refugee protection might care for the welfare of disadvantaged individuals.
  • For such a consensus to arise, several additional conditions need to hold, including a shared belief that aid is an effective tool to reduce emigration and a willingness to increase spending for this purpose. We investigate these conditions in this policy brief.
  • While voters’ views vary along the political left-right scale, an individual’s attitude toward refugees is a far stronger predictor of whether they consider aid an effective tool to reduce emigration from developing countries.
  • Insecurity is a root cause of refugee flows. Nevertheless, voters’ support for increasing development aid to fight terrorism in Africa and the Middle East depends even more strongly on their attitudes toward refugees and ideological self-positioning.
  • Development aid to fight the root causes of refugee flows is thus unlikely to comfort immigration critics or bridge societal polarization about immigration


Esther Ademmer - Kiel Institute
Esther Ademmer
Jens Eger
David Hudson
Jennifer van Heerde-Hudson
Sebastian Schneider


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