Why Brits are feeling better about immigration
British voters feel more positively about immigrants than at any time since 2011, a major new study has revealed.
The British Social Attitudes survey, seen as the country’s most rigorous polling exercise, found just 17% of Britons thought immigrants had a negative impact on the economy, while just 23% thought they undermined Britain’s cultural life. It is the lowest level since the question was first asked in 2011.
“Both counts are markedly lower than when the questions were last asked in 2015, before the Brexit referendum campaign,” says the Financial Times. And almost twice as many respondents said that migrants enrich Britain’s culture (44%) than undermine it (23%).
“There is little sign here that the EU referendum campaign served to make Britain less tolerant towards migrants,” the British Social Attitudes report said. “Rather they have apparently come to be valued to a degree that was not in evidence before the referendum campaign.”
Quartz says “the study confirms what other surveys have suggested for a while”: that although the UK is leaving the EU, with many proponents of Brexit citing greater control of borders as a motivating factor, “Brits have become distinctly more positive about immigration”.
Polling firm Ipsos Mori, which recently found that some 44% of respondents now believe immigration’s impact on the UK has been positive, compared with 30% in 2015, points to two opposing reasons for the shift.
Over a third (39%) of people say the Brexit vote has since highlighted the contribution immigrants make to the UK, while 41% are more positive because they feel more reassured that immigration has or will come down.
However, despite support for the economic and social benefits of immigration growing, the Ipsos Mori survey found the majority of the public (59%) still want to see immigration come down.
This apparent contradiction has played out across Europe since the height of the migration crisis.
Since 2015, the numbers of refugees arriving in Europe has plummeted, yet a wave of nationalism anti-immigrant parties have made huge gains with the promise of cracking down on new arrivals.
“It’s an invented crisis,” says Matteo Villa, a migration specialist at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies. “The high flows of the last years have bolstered nationalist parties, who are now creating a crisis of their own in order to score cheap political points.”
“It is the paradox of Europe’s migration crisis” writes Patrick Kingsley in The New York Times. “The actual number of arriving migrants is back to its pre-2015 level, even as the politics of migration continue to shake the Continent”.