Violence, displacement, contact, and attitudes toward hosting refugees

Faten Ghosn, Alex Braithwaite, and Tiffany S Chu

Journal of Peace Research, Volume 56, Issue 1 (2019)


This article examines whether an individual’s personal exposure to violence, personal experience of being displaced, and recent contact with refugees influence their attitudes towards hosting refugees.

The authors draw on a 2017 survey of 2,400 Lebanese residents, which identified individuals who experienced violence during the Lebanese Civil War (1975–90), those forced to flee their homes during that conflict, and those who had recent contact with Syrian immigrant and/or displaced populations.

Main findings:

  • An individual’s exposure to violence and experience of displacement had no discernible impact on individual attitudes toward hosting refugees. This may be because of the protracted nature of the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon, i.e., over time positive sentiments begin to wane.
  • Attitudes towards refugees were associated with whether individual respondents had contact with Syrians in Lebanon. Individuals who had contact with Syrian refugees were more likely to support hosting refugees, to consider hiring a refugee, or to allow one of their children to marry a refugee. Findings do not confirm a causal relationship between these factors, but they do suggest contact and positive sentiments go together.
  • Men were significantly more likely than women to be supportive of hosting refugees, hiring refugees, and allowing their child to marry a refugee.
  • Shia Lebanese were consistently less likely than Sunni Lebanese to relay positive attitudes regarding Syrian refugees. These findings reflect that most refugees are Sunni.
  • Respondents with lower levels of education were more likely to support hosting refugees and those with medium and high levels of income were more likely to be willing to hire refugees.

The authors conclude that exposure to violence by itself does not correlate to positive sentiments toward refugees, especially over time. Finding ways to create positive contact between refugees and native populations may be associated with improving attitudes and relations between the two populations.