Within Europe, public debate has become increasingly concerned with issues of identity, belonging and threats associated with ‘out-groups’ (such as immigrants and refugees). These issues are the focus of many insurgent populist parties, which are shaping debates in many countries across Europe.
When asked to identify the most important issue facing Europe, survey respondents in 2017 gave the highest rankings to terrorism and immigration – two issues that provoke public debate on the threat of minority ‘out-groups’ to majority ‘in-groups’.
Polarisation is reflected in deeper divisions and distrust between opposing groups. There are many indicators of increasing polarisation in European societies (though no agreed measure or major comparative study).
The issues around which polarisation is taking place are especially related to national identity, culture and inclusion, between people who espouse cosmopolitan values and people who espouse traditional cultural and nationalist values.
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