Poll: Most Israelis think olim increase crime

Survey shows 73% see aliya as vital for Israel, but 52% of respondents say immigration raised crime.

January 20, 2010 11:49
4 minute read.
aliya 298 nefesh benefesh

aliya 298 nefesh benefes. (photo credit: Nefesh Benefesh)


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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.

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The 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 residents.


When 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 Ethiopian immigrant.

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.

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