Narratives Around Migration in 28 EU Member States, and Communication Strategy Takeaways

What do Europeans think about migration? Study summary in 5 minutes


Friedrich Ebert Stiftung commissioned Bakamo Public to conduct social media listening on the discussion around migration in 28 member states of the European Union.

  • This research defines the term migrants as "people living and working outside their country of origin."*  

  • Using this definition, the study analyzed posts and comments published within 28 EU member states on public social media (with respect to GDRP, and excluding Facebook, totalling around 320k comments) from 31 July 2017 until 1 August 2018.

  • The goal of the analysis was to identify Pan-European migration narratives: thematic topics that appear in all EU member state discussions concerning migration. We aimed to compare the size of these narratives in each country and identify regional similarities.

The research analyzed the influence of European and domestic politics on the local migration discourse, and identified key conversation channels and overall tone of discussion for each country.

A keyword grid was developed to collect the most far-reaching conversations on the topic, which included terms referring to both ‘migration’ as a concept and ‘migrants’ as participants. The keyword grid was first developed in English and then translated to official languages of member states. In each member state, the analysis was carried out in the dominant official language of the country. Conversations were analyzed separately in two dominant languages in Luxembourg (German and French) and Belgium (French and Dutch).

Size of the dataset collected through each country’s keyword grid varied by member state. Random sampling was applied to generate a dataset of approximately 10,000 comments in each country, which was then analyzed by human readers and AI-supported technology.

Pan-European narratives were identified through qualitative analysis of public social media conversations around migration in six focus countries: Germany, Poland, Italy, Spain, Ireland and Hungary. In the process, local human analysts read a random sample of 1,000 relevant social media posts on migration in each country. Theoretical saturation of the conversation included pinpointing dominant themes. Pan-European narratives emerged through the conceptual grouping of key themes.

Pan-European narratives are topic-based and represent no value judgement. Thus, each narrative may include both pro- and anti-immigrant arguments, depending on the speaker’s point of view.

We present our findings on the aggregate level, by visualising with the help of Dénes Csala the sizes of different narratives across the continent as well as their share in the individual member states. The detailed reports for each country can be reached here, as well as through the map above.

We are confident that anybody who reads through these reports will have a good idea on the shape of the migration discourse.