Survey Finds Refugee Crisis Is Poorly Understood

Survey Finds Refugee Crisis Is Poorly Understood

A six-country survey commissioned by the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity finds widespread misperceptions of the scale of the global refugee crisis.

Based on a survey of forty-six hundred respondents in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Lebanon, and Iran, the first annual Humanitarian Index (21 pages, PDF) found that terrorism was the most pressing global concern in all six countries. Forced migration ranked second in the UK, Lebanon, and Iran, third in Germany, fourth in France, and seventh in the United States, with American, British, and French survey respondents vastly underestimating the number of Syrian refugees who have fled the country since 2011 (4.8 million). Survey respondents in the U.S., French, and German also overestimated the number of Syrian refugees their country has taken in by factors of three, five, and five. In addition, respondents disproportionately associated the global refugee crisis with Syria alone and demonstrated low awareness of refugee crises in Myanmar, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

According to the index, while respondents viewed the international community, led by the United Nations, as being the most capable of addressing the crisis, a majority said the international community is not doing enough to manage it, with more than half the respondents in Lebanon and Iran and nearly half in the other countries saying the Syrian people have been abandoned by the international community.

Conducted by Edelman Intelligence, the survey also found a gap between the compassion respondents felt for the refugees and their willingness to take action. While more than half the respondents in Lebanon (67 percent) and Iran (59 percent), half in the U.S. (50 percent), and nearly half in Germany (48 percent), the UK (44 percent), and France (43 percent) said they would help Syrian refugees if they could, far fewer said they had actually donated time or money in the past year to help refugees and many questioned their ability to make a real difference. Of those who have taken action, 27 percent did so after hearing a personal story about refugees.

"What is encouraging is that the research shows that although individuals might struggle to turn compassion into action, the public realizes that those humanitarians who do intervene on behalf of others can have a tremendous impact," said Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and a member of the Aurora Prize selection committee.