Journal Article

Who cares what the people think? Public attitudes and refugee protection in Europe


  • Ruhs
  • M.
Publication Date


This paper discusses why and how public attitudes should matter in regulating asylum and refugee protection in rich democracies, with a focus on Europe. Taking a realistic approach, I argue that public views constitute a soft feasibility constraint on effective and sustainable policies towards asylum seekers and refugees, and that a failure to take seriously and understand the attitudes of the host country’s population can have a very damaging effect on refugee protection and migrants’ rights in practice. Bringing together insights from political philosophy, the politics of asylum, and research on public attitudes, I develop my argument by discussing why ‘what the people think’ should matter in asylum and refugee polices; how public views can and should matter given the well-known challenges with measuring attitudes and policy preferences; and what the prevailing public views might mean for the reform of asylum and refugee policies in Europe.

Key Words

  • Public Attitudes
  • Asylum
  • Refugee Protection
  • Political Feasibility
  • Europe