AP-GfK poll: Italians see immigration as 'good'

November 23, 2011 - 9:00 AM

ROME (AP) — Two-thirds of Italians consider legal immigration "good" for their country and many would welcome more migrants, an AP-GfK poll has found — surprising results given persistent sentiment in Italy linking foreigners to crime and other social ills.

Many Italians — most prominently allies of former Premier Silvio Berlusconi — have blamed the relatively new phenomenon of immigration for problems ranging from unemployment to drug trafficking, burglaries and violent crime.

But in the poll conducted last week, 67 percent of 1,025 Italian adults surveyed across the country said legal immigration is a good thing. And 59 percent said they want to see even more immigrants admitted legally to Italy.

Analysts suggested Wednesday the findings indicate Italians' split view of immigration: While many have a knee-jerk hostile reaction to immigrants because of security fears, many also realize they are needed to do the jobs Italians won't do, to pay into Italy's overburdened pension system and to care for the country's aging population.

"There is a schizophrenic attitude, which acknowledges the necessity of immigrant labor but doesn't accompany this with a true openness to the human and social implications of migration," said Ferruccio Pastore, director of the International and European Research Forum on Immigration think tank.

On Tuesday, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano urged Parliament to grant automatic citizenship to the children born in Italy to foreigners. He has noted that the weight of Italy's massive debt would be even more difficult to sustain were it not for immigrants' contributions to Italy's economy.

Yet a chorus of protest rose up to those comments from right-wing politicians, with some in the anti-immigrant Northern League vowing to "throw up barricades" around Parliament if the citizenship measure comes up for a vote.

Among those polled, people most in favor of increasing the number of new immigrant workers and people who consider legal immigration a very good thing came mainly from Italy's industrious north. Those in southern Italy, which suffers from high unemployment and lawlessness and has borne the burden of receiving thousands of illegal boat people, were less enthusiastic.

___

AP Poll is at http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

___

Maria Grazia Murru and Paolo Santalucia contributed to this story.