Opportunity or threat? Public attitudes towards EU Freedom of Movement

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This article examines the effect of individual and contextual variables on preference formation towards European Union (EU) freedom of movement. Our multilevel analyses of Eurobarometer data show that citizens with low levels of human capital and strong feelings of national identity are more likely to oppose intra-EU migration. However, we argue that in order to fully grasp variation in public preferences, we need to consider the domestic context. Utilitarian and affective theories have more explanatory power in richer countries, but in less affluent member states support for free movement is evenly high irrespective of individual dispositions. Our findings have implications for the progress of European integration, especially at a time when the EU is in the process of deciding on a course of action about its future direction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)805-823
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Issue number6
Early online date22 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2018 The Author(s).


  • Attitudes
  • EU freedom of movement
  • identity
  • macro-economic conditions
  • utility

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