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WEF global survey: most back immigration, reject populist ideas

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Populism may be on the wane, according to a massive new survey that its authors say “debunks” headlines suggesting people are against immigration and global cooperation.

The survey— which polled more than 10,000 people globally and released this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland — found that cooperation between nations was very important, that national self-improvement was not a zero-sum game, and that attitudes towards immigration are mostly positive.

The survey, conducted with collaboration from research firm Qualtrics, found 57% of global respondents said that immigration was mostly good.

The result “roundly debunks the negative notion of immigrants that has raced to the top of the news agenda across Europe, North America and elsewhere,” the authors said in the survey.

The survey also highlights the despondency in the West and negative attitudes towards wealth and social mobility. In North America, only 34% of respondents thought it was very common for someone to be born poor and become rich through hard work. In Western Europe, only 20% of those surveyed suggesting upward social mobility was common.

World Economic Forum

“Majority of respondents say they believe upward mobility is too elusive and that governments are not doing enough to provide people with opportunity,” the report said.

The rise of far-right political movements and the populist ideals of national campaigns like “America First” and Brexit have formed a schism in global politics, but the survey suggests these ideas might be fading in popularity.

The results showed some nuance, however, when broken down by region.

Figures from Europe suggest that only 46% of people in Western Europe think immigration is good while Eastern Europe, which has seen recent far right governments in Hungary and Czechia, saw only 40% of respondents saying that immigration is good.

Another intriguing finding of the research is that North Americans have the least trust in climate science, while Western Europeans are least likely to regard technology companies as altruistic, as evidenced by the EU’s campaigns against Facebook and Google.

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