07 January 2011
Danes have become more tolerant towards immigrants
While public debate for years has been characterised by increasing stringencies on immigration, Danes have slowly become more tolerant towards immigrants. This is shown in a comprehensive Danish values study carried out at the Department of Sociology at the University of Copenhagen. The study outlines Danish values during a period of three decades and forms part of a major European values study that is completed every nine years.
While many politicians in Denmark have worked to establish more restrictive immigration rules, Danes have moved in the opposite direction value-wise. This is the result of the new Danish values study 'Små og store forandringer - Danskernes værdier siden 1981' (UK: Small and large changes - Danish values since 1981), which has been edited by Professor Peter Gundelach from the Department of Sociology at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Copenhagen.
"Over the past almost 30 years, Danes have become gradually more tolerant towards immigrants. And there is no indication that the tide will turn anytime soon. Danish values are basically very steady," says Professor Peter Gundelach.
Tolerance gains acceptance everywhere
In light of the fact that public debate pursues a more restrictive approach to immigration, Peter Gundelach is surprised that all social groups move in the same direction.
"The increased tolerance is truely apparent all over society from citizens to companies and authorities. Voters for the respective Danish political parties have all likewise become more tolerant towards immigrants through the years," says Peter Gundelach.
1,509 participants have been posed identical questions in relation to immigration every time the study has been carried out. One question has repeatedly been posed throughout all the years that the study has been undertaken; i.e. 1981, 1990, 1999 and 2008, while two questions have been adopted on the way. The fact that the same questions have been used repeatedly allows for a comparison of the results of the respective studies over a long period of time.
Large gap between politicians and Danes
Peter Gundelach is surprised that the study clearly confirms what less comprehensive studies have indicated earlier.
"There is a distinct disparity between statements made by Danish politicians in relation to the immigration debate and Danish public opinion. It is thought-provoking that the gap between the Danish political opinion and everyday life of Danes is so significant," says Peter Gundelach.
He explains that the disparities may be due to the fact that Danish political opinion, which is covered by the media, is mostly characterised by conflicts, while everyday life of Danes is based on social networks and an 'it will all be ok'-opinion, as Danes wish to live in peace and harmony with their neighbours.
Immigrants make up 10 per cent of the Danish population
In 1981, immigrants only counted for three per cent of the Danish population. Today, the number is 10 per cent. According to Peter Gundelach, the study shows that the level of tolerance among Danes has increased as more immigrants have arrived in Denmark:
"This means that down-to-earth experiences in everyday life - i.e. where you meet other people - are decisive for ones attitude towards immigrants," he explains.
Broad study of values
The Danish values study 'Små og store forandringer - Danskernes værdier siden 1981' (UK: Small and large changes - Danish values since 1981) will be published on 14 January by the Danish publishing house ‘Hans Reitzels Forlag' and it contains a far larger number of results. Among other things, the fact that Danes have become more trusting, that they once again are proud to be Danes and that more of them attend church at Christmas, and that we engage in the community and the family in its new form.
Soon, Peter Gundelach and the rest of the research team will engage in the next major project - to compare the Danish results with the results from other European countries, which have just been made public.
Facts on value studies
The European values study was initiated in 1981 and is currently made up of a foundation based in the Netherlands. Since 1981, the study has been undertaken every nine years using identical questionnaires in the participating European countries; app. 48 countries in all. The broadness and the long period of time make the study unique within the social sciences.
Data on Denmark was collected in 2008. It is available at http://ddv.soc.ku.dk/, where you will also be able to find additional information about the study, questionnaires etc. The data can also be acquired from the Danish State Archives.