A new survey conducted for the Immigrant
Absorption Ministry reveals mixed feelings among the Israeli population
toward new immigrants. While 73 percent of the people surveyed said
they believed immigration was vital for the state, more than half also
said immigration had caused a rise in crime and youth alcoholism.
survey, which was conducted by Geocartography Knowledge Group and
released Tuesday in advance of the Absorption Ministry's Ashdod
Conference on Immigration and Absorption, interviewed a representative
sample of 500 people on their attitudes toward new immigrants. This is
the fourth time such a survey was conducted.
Nearly a third of those asked (30%) said immigration made it
substantially harder for veteran Israelis to obtain housing, and 35%
said it made it substantially harder to find jobs. These opinions were
especially strong among low-income earners.
The survey did, however, show a drop in those thinking this way
since the publication of the previous survey in 2007, from 44%
regarding housing and 41% when it came to jobs.
One of the main issues that the survey sought to
determine was how new immigrants measured in relation to other groups
in terms of their entitlement to government assistance.
While 59% of those asked believed that new immigrants should
receive government help, immigrants ranked lower than recently
discharged soldiers (84%) and young couples (72%). Immigrants did,
however, rank higher than families with many children, and returning
asked which population people would most like to have as neighbors,
veteran Israelis came in first, followed by new immigrants from the
United States, immigrants from France, immigrants from the former
Soviet Union and lastly immigrants from Ethiopia.
The same results emerged when people were asked which
population they would be happy to have in their children's class, and
whom they would like their children to marry.
Seeking to learn about people's impressions of how immigration
influenced aspects of day-to-day life, the survey asked people to rank
immigrants' influence on culture, security, economic situation,
education and crime.
While immigrants scored high for cultural influence, in the
other areas their positive influence was registered as negligible. In
addition, 52% said new immigrants had a negative effect on crime.
The survey also sought to see where interactions between
veteran Israelis and new immigrants took place. The survey
differentiated among immigrants according to their region: immigrants
from the former Soviet Union, immigrants from Ethiopia and immigrants
from the United States and the rest of the world.
The survey asked what sort of interactions with immigrant populations people had over the last year.
According to the findings, 64% of those asked met with
immigrants from the FSU in their homes or in the homes of others; 64%
met them at work or at social events and 63% encountered them by
chance, at places like the supermarket or on the bus. Only 9% said they
never encountered them.
With immigrants from the West, the numbers were quite
different. Forty-two percent said they never encountered immigrants
from those countries. Of those who did encounter them, 33% said they
met them by chance in public places, 37% said they met them at work and
at social occasions and 24% said they hosted them in their homes or met
them in the homes of others.
When it came to Ethiopian immigrants, only 13% said they met
them at home, 41% said they met at work and 51% said their only
meetings were chance encounters. 27% said they had never encountered an
Dr. Ze'ev Khanin, chief scientist of the Immigrant Absorption
Ministry and one of the people who designed the survey, said he was
somewhat surprised by its findings.
"On the one hand people say that immigration is vital, but on
the other hand, they report on negative impacts of it. It seems like
the two don't go together," said Khanin. He blames the discrepancy on
the media, which he said, highlights the negative instead of reporting
on the norm.
"We have seen an increase in this tendency since the horrible
case of the Oshrenko family murder [in late October]. That story was
reported in the news as a purely immigrant-related affair and caused a
backlash of negative opinion against the immigrant population, and
especially against the Russian immigrants," said Khanin.
Khanin said the survey also served to dispel the notion that there is a "Russian ghetto" in Israel.
"A common misconception is that the immigrant population that
came from the FSU exists in an insular society and doesn't take part in
general Israeli society. I think that the statistics on people who
interact with immigrants that the survey reveals, can put that notion
behind us. Where I do see a problem is with Ethiopian immigrants, who
ranked very low on all the integration indicators," he said.
Khanin also lamented the perception of immigration as a negative influence on economic well-being.
"I thought that discussion was behind us already, that we
finished with that 10 years ago. All the objective indicators we
possess show us that the immigration waves of the last 20 years helped
boost the Israeli economy," said Khanin.
One survey measurement that Khanin said tells the whole story
is the fact that immigrants themselves ranked immigrants lower than
recently released soldiers as being deserving of government assistance.
"It shows just how deeply they've integrated and adopted the local mind-set," he said.
The Ashdod conference will take place on January 25, and will be attended by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.