Author: Zamira Rahim
A total of 40% of people do not agree that diversity benefits British culture, according to one of the broadest pieces of research examining attitudes to immigration.
Members of the public involved in the study were also worried over resources and the local impact of immigrants on their communities, with 52% saying immigrants placed public services under strain.
The research was led by the National Conversation on Immigration and carried out by ICM polling on behalf of the British Future think tank and anti-prejudice campaign group Hope Not Hate,
Asked if “diversity is a good thing for British culture”, 60% of people agreed that it was while 40% of respondents either disagreed or had no opinion.
People who lived in cities or who were under 45 were more likely to see diversity as a positive.
The research is based on the polling of 3,667 nationally representative adults, as part of an overall consultation that involved nearly 20,000 people across the UK.
The report’s authors expressed concerned over the high levels of anti-Islamic prejudice that was especially prevalent in parts of the UK with smaller Muslim populations.
Some respondents talked about Muslims “taking over” cities and saw followers of the religion as a monolithic group who lead a lifestyle that is incompatible with British life.
Yet researchers found that most people were still “balancers”, with 65% of those surveyed believing immigrants brought valuable services to the UK’s economy, despite harbouring concerns about the social impact of multiculturalism.
A significant divergence was found between online responses, which were polarised, and face-to-face discussions, where people’s views were found to be more moderate.
Commitment to the UK was valued by the people surveyed, who praised immigrants that came to the UK and worked for the NHS.
A majority of respondents also preferred migrants who committed to staying in the UK and developed roots, compared to those who returned home after a few years.
The National Conversation on Immigration held over 130 meetings with members of the public and stakeholders in 60 panels throughout the UK, as well as drawing on the ICM polling and an open online survey, which was taken by nearly 10,000 people.
The study also found a huge lack of public trust in officials. Only 13% of people believe their representatives tell the truth about immigration, with just 17% believing that the government does the same.
“The lack of trust we found in the government to manage immigration is quite shocking,” Jill Rutter, Director of Strategy for British Future and co-author of the report, said.
“People want to have their voices heard on the choices we make, and to hold their leaders to account on their promises.”
“Immigration is a national issue, but people see it through a local lens. Where people live, and their living conditions, makes a real difference – that includes the perceived impact of migration on their community, broader grievances about economic insecurity and levels of contact with migrants and ethnic minorities too,” said Rosie Carter, a co-author of the report who works for Hope Not Hate.
The report’s authors are calling for the government to lead a “national conversation” about immigration in an effort to win back trust on the topic.
The study makes 40 recommendations to help officials do so, including improving the performance of the Home Office and increasing the help available for English language classes.
But the researchers warned there was no easy fix or “single or immediate solution” that will improve the current system, only a series of steps that will need time to take effect.