Friday, 4 December 2009

This Septic Isle

A new poll has revealed just how ingrained anti-immigration sentiment is in the UK. In the latest Transatlantic Trends survey on immigration carried out by the German-Marshall Fund in 6 European countries, including the UK, plus USA and Canada, the Brits come out 'top of the racism pops' or, as the Guardian would have it, "more anti-immigrant and xenophobic than the rest of western Europe".

In he survey, 55% of UK citizens felt there were too many immigrants, the highest in the countries polled. 66% also felt that immigration was more of a problem than an opportunity, the highest of all countries (up from 61% in '08). 54% of Brits also agreed with the statement "immigrants take away jobs from native-born workers", and the UK was the only country where a majority thought this. 48% also agreed that immigrants bring down wages, one of only two countries (the other being Spain) where a majority held that view.

When asked to estimate the number of immigrants living in their country, British citizens estimated there to be 27%, while in reality it is 10% i.e. 2.7 times higher than the true picture. In fact all countries overestimated the numbers of migrants but only France, who estimated. 2.9 times and Italy (3.5) had higher percentage errors than the UK.

On the crime front, the UK was towards the bottom of spectrum when it came to adverse perceptions of the effects of immigration, with 36% feeling legal migration increased crime and 59% for illegal migration. In comparison, Italy and Spain were much more concerned about the effects of illegal migration on crime with Germany and the Netherlands most fearful of both.

Despite that fact that 71% said the government had dome a bad job managing migration (against 27% who had said that they had done a good/fair job), the highest in Europe (versus a 71% approval rating in Germany), 53% still wanted that government (or more likely one with more restrictive immigration policies) to retain control of immigration policy. Needless to say, the UK was the only European country polled that did not favour an EU formulated immigration policy (30% for as opposed to an European average of 56%).

This anti-European sentiment was further reinforced by the 47% that said that there are “too many” citizens of other EU countries living in the UK. And not being a Schengen member correlated with the fact that reinforcing border controls was seen to be the most effective means of combating illegal migration (44%, nearly 50% higher than in the USA and 76% higher than in the next highest EU country, the Netherlands).

Other stand-out statistics were:
  • 20% in the UK and 15% in Italy thought that immigration was the most important issue facing their country (versus 30% and 34% respectively who thought that the economy was more important);
  • the Italians and British were most against giving 'illegal' migrants opportunities to normalise their status;
  • apart from Spain and Italy, UK correspondents were most worried about illegal immigration (68%) but the most worried about legal migration (36%);
  • along with the Netherlands, the UK was the least in favour of migrants being granted permanent leave to remain;
  • the also UK had the lowest support rate (50%) and the highest opposition (47%) for the granting of social benefits to legal migrants, with 28% “strongly opposed” to the policy (Italy's figures were 87/11% pro/anti);
  • but Britain had the lowest percentage (47%) of those who thought that “immigration negatively affects national culture” (whatever that is).

One of the few bright lights in the survey was that most people support allowing individuals displaced by events linked to global climate change to settle in their countries. However, the country with the lowest level of support (57%) and the highest opposition (38%) is, yes you guessed it, Britain - though the majority still support such migration, so we have something to be grateful for.

So, apart from having such expected truisms 'as those who had suffered increased financial problems in the past year claiming that they were now more worried about immigration' (except in the USA for some reason) and that 'contact with immigrants is the most important predictor of opinions about integration' confirmed, we now also know that the 'Little Englander' stereotype is true. And that the country* that in the past has "welcomed Danes, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Frisians, Franks, Jews, Lombards, Roma, Huguenots, Palatines, Africans, West Indians, Pakistanis, Indians, Chinese, Belgians, Poles and many others", to quote the Spectator, is even more racist than Italy!

* Or "This sceptical isle" as the Economist put it (more like septic isle if you ask us). Their take on some of the graphs is quiet amusing too...

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