The Role of Immigration in Electoral Preferences in Portugal

by Rosário Tomé

With the 2024 parliamentary elections just around the corner, HOM has launched a survey to understand the country’s political landscape ahead of the vote. At a crucial moment of decision, Humanity will have the opportunity to make itself heard, especially with regard to the human rights of immigrants and refugees.

As Portuguese voters prepare to exercise their democratic right, concern about migration issues is emerging as a central theme in the Portuguese political debate. In an attempt to understand the voting intentions of Portuguese citizens, HOM launched a questionnaire that sought to clarify whether people consider the human rights of immigrants and refugees.


The study, based on the responses of 100 people, revealed a complex intersection between political perspectives, gender and age group, offering valuable data on how voters view migration issues. Next Monday, HOM and JRS will also publish the report “Bulletin+: What Political Parties Say About Immigration, which analyzes in detail the electoral program and parliamentary work of each party in relation to immigration, and can be consulted here.


In response to the humanitarian emergency of refugees in Europe in 2015, several countries closed their borders completely to people seeking a safe life. This has fueled anti-immigrant sentiment, which has grown in Europe along with support for far-right political parties. Portugal has also seen protests against immigration, with immigrants accused of stealing “Portuguese” jobs and homes. If this correlation were true, we would find a higher unemployment rate in countries with a higher percentage of immigrants; however, an OECD study shows precisely that the highest unemployment rates are in countries with low percentages of immigrants. In addition, in economically motivated migratory flows, there is a natural rationale: where there is high unemployment, there is an unattractive destination for immigrants.


The increase in the foreign population on Portuguese soil has contributed to strengthening Social Security finances – with a positive balance of €1604.2 million in 2022 – and has addressed the dynamics of the labor market in sectors such as technology, agriculture and technology. It should also be noted that foreigners are concentrated in the most risky sectors of activity in Portugal, where there are more fatal accidents. They are therefore substantially more vulnerable to risk and insecurity at work than Portuguese workers. It is also important to note that after the extinction of the Foreigners and Borders Service, the new migration agency was left with almost 250,000 pending regularization cases, condemning many immigrants to an indeterminate legal limbo. 


As for the questionnaire launched by HOM, it reveals the political awareness of the Portuguese regarding the human rights of migrants and refugees. 81% of respondents consider migration issues to be relevant when deciding which party to vote for, showing a growing interest in this topic. Of these, 90% consider “the concerns of refugees and migrants in Portugal in their vote”. Further analysis also reveals gender disparities. It stands out that 84% of women versus 76% of men demonstrated a keener social conscience when voting, highlighting the crucial role of women in promoting inclusive and humanitarian politics.


With regard to the 81 people who say they consider migration issues in their vote, when asked “which party do you believe focuses on these issues more positively?”, the predominant answer is the Left Bloc, particularly for young people between the ages of 18 and 30. Although this doesn’t mean that they will vote for that party, it does indicate that they perceive it as the parliamentary group that addresses these issues most comprehensively. Next is LIVRE, which stands out because it understands that refugees “have specific needs” and because it “approaches the streets as democratic spaces where different cultures should be celebrated”.


On the other hand, Chega is identified by 83 of the 100 interviewees as the party that approaches migration issues in the most negative way. Characterized by one participant as “xenophobic, racist” and a party that takes advantage of the “myth of Portugueseness”, it is seen as a political entity that stands in opposition to humanitarian principles, generating division and polarization in the Portuguese political sphere.


The results of the study carried out by the Association reveal a clear concern for immigrants and refugees, and their desire for an effective government response. As we prepare for March 10, the voice of humanity is already echoing through the streets of Portugal, bringing with it a unified concern: migration issues. It is imperative to consider the implications of each party’s electoral programs and parliamentary work for immigrant people and the protection of their human rights. Voting is not just a moment of political choice, but an opportunity to reaffirm Portugal’s commitment to human dignity, inclusion and solidarity.