Immigration flows have continued or intensified in the last two decades in many West European countries, some of which have been attracting large numbers of immigrants since the 1950s and 1960s. Countries that were previously net senders of emigrants – such as Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain – have become, since the 1980s and 1990s, net receivers. Together with Ireland, nowhere has this reversal of population flows changed so dramatically and rapidly as in Spain (see chapter 3 in this volume).
The strong and sustained growth of the Spanish economy during the first half of the 2000s, together with its ageing population structure, has favoured the inflow of migrant workers mostly from Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Maghreb – resulting in a steep surge, especially since the late 1990s. Moreover, the spatial distribution of this immigrant population was initially concentrated in a limited number of areas and regions in Spain, but in the 2000s considerable immigrant populations spread all over the country, even if EU immigration tends to concentrate in very specific areas – mainly coastal and islands.
In the context of such massive and rapid social change, it has become increasingly important in recent years to be able to adapt survey sampling methods and strategies so as to get an accurate representation of the opinions, attitudes and behaviours of the various groups of newcomers to the country (for more details, see chapter 9 in this volume).3 What is lacking is a systematic integration of immigrants in the daily and ordinary surveys that are conducted in Spain; in other words, a ‘normalisation’ of their inclusion in the typical survey, regardless of whether they have naturalised as Spanish citizens.
Often, underlying this exclusion of non-naturalised immigrants is the feeling or sense on the part of opinion polling institutes and their fieldwork organisations in Spain that it is very difficult and costly to reach this target population, and that response rates are poor for this subgroup. Furthermore, as we will review in the following section, some of the existing survey research scholarship reinforces this view that the response rates of immigrants and individuals of migrant-background are substantially lower than those of the autochthonous population.