Study: When the refugee crisis hit Denmark

A media and reputation analysis of the Danish refugee debate in both Denmark and abroad


During the last year, Denmark has received severe criticism in both Danish and international media for its handling of the refugee crisis. Infomedia has conducted a study of the Danish and international media coverage relating to the Danish refugee debate and discovered some interesting and perhaps unexpected results.


From August 2015 to April 2016 the Danish national media wrote 15.366 articles on the topic.

Ten of the leading web media in respectively Sweden, Germany, Great Britain and The United States wrote 1.354 articles in total. It sums up to nearly 17.00 articles, which Infomedia has read and analyzed.


Denmark’s reputation abroad

Both Danish and international media became red-hot when large groups of refugees hit the Danish cities and motorways. A lot of critical articles have been written about the Danish handling of the refugee crisis, but it would seem that there is a relationship between distance and the likelihood of critical coverage. While Denmark’s closest neighbours Sweden and Germany has been critical in their coverage of Denmark’s response to the refugee crisis, it turns out that they have in fact been gentle in their criticism compared to the media coverage in Great Britain and The United States.

The further from Denmark the more negative media coverage

The further from Denmark the more negative media coverage


However, the critical coverage does not seem to have made a significant dent in Denmark’s reputation in these countries. On the contrary, a survey of over a 1000 individually selected respondents in each of the four countries found that while 7 percent indeed did get a more negative opinion of Denmark, 11 percent actually had a better opinion of Denmark while the rest remained unchanged in their opinion.


The study also shows that despite the critical coverage in The United States the opinion of Denmark among 21 percent of Americans have significantly changed for the better, while only 3 percent says that their opinion has changed for the worse. According to the study Denmark is often associated with bacon, beer and tourism and almost never associated with politics. In fact only 27 of 4.000 mentioned refugees, immigrants or border control as words they associated with Denmark. 

Words Germans and Swedes associate with Denmark

Words Americans and Brits associates with Denmark

At least 1.000 respondents in each country mentioned up to three associations for Denmark


Danes going more right

Even though the Danish media have been balanced in their coverage, popular opinion has shifted towards a more anti-immigration stance. In a survey conducted by Infomedia, 47 percent indicate a wish for stricter immigration laws, while another 23 percent thinks the current immigration laws has been too strict.


Respondents also indicate, that they have become increasingly critical of immigration in the time period between the parliamentary election in the summer of 2015 and the time of the survey (May 2016). 26 percent of respondents would like a party in the Danish parliament, which is further to the right on the issue of immigration than the current most right wing party Dansk Folkeparti.


Want to know more?

The study received a lot of attention from stakeholders and media. Are you interested in knowing more about the study, you can contact our Advisor, Lasse Skjoldan; or +45 28 24 35 16.