Violence, Displacement, Contact, and Attitudes toward Hosting Refugees

Faten Ghosn, Alex Braithwaite, Tiffany S Chu

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


This article explores the role of an individual’s personal exposure to violence, their own personal experience of being displaced, and their recent contact with refugees influence their attitudes about hosting refugees. The authors draw on a 2017 survey of 2,400 Lebanese residents where they identify individuals who experienced violence during the Lebanese Civil War (1975–90), those forced to flee their homes during that conflict, and those who enjoy recent contact with Syrian immigrant and/or displaced populations. They find that:

  • Historical exposure to violence and experience of displacement have 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 are associated with whether individual respondents have had contact with Syrians in Lebanon; those with such interactions are significantly 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 hand-in-hand.
  • Men are significantly more likely than women to be supportive of hosting refugees, hiring refugees, and allowing their child to marry a refugee.
  • Shia Lebanese are consistently less likely than Sunni Lebanese to relay positive attitudes regarding Syrian refugees. These findings reflect that the majority of refugees are Sunni.
  • Respondents with lower levels of education are more likely to support hosting refugees and those with medium and high levels of income are 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.

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