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Marked increase in British support for immigration

04 March 2019

There has been a remarkable increase in the UK public’s appreciation of the benefits of immigration since the nation voted in the EU referendum in 2016, according to a new poll.

Almost half of those surveyed believe immigration is positive for the economy

The survey, conducted for the BBC by Ipsos-Mori, found that almost half of the 1,500 respondents now believed immigration had had a positive effect on the country, while only just over a quarter felt it had had a negative effect.

Part of a survey of almost 20,000 people across 27 countries, the results showed that the UK now ranks among the most positive nations across the globe when it comes to attitudes towards immigration.

And the poll was in marked contrast to a similar one conducted in 2011 when 64 per cent of Britons told Ipsos-Mori that they believed immigration had been bad for the country.

Attitudes towards the impact of immigration are getting more positive

Prof Rob Ford, a specialist in immigration trends at the University of Manchester, told the BBC that the new-found positivity towards immigration would have been unimaginable only a few years ago.

“It’s at odds with what we’ve seen about [sentiment towards] migration in the past because immigration levels are still very high, so it’s not that the public is seeing more control over numbers,” he said.

Mark Easton, BBC home editor, commented, “It appears Britain has changed its mind about immigration and there are three important reasons why that might have happened…

“The Brexit vote itself may have led some to assume that the immigration issue has been dealt with and therefore it is not seen as such a risk.

“The national debate on immigration during elections and the Brexit referendum may have focused people’s minds on the social, practical and economic trade-offs involved in cutting migrant numbers, resulting in a more nuanced response to the issue.

“The millions of European migrant workers who came to the UK after 2004 initially caused something of a culture shock in neighbourhoods unaccustomed to immigration. Now many of those arrivals have integrated into society, put down roots, formed relationships and become a familiar part of the local scene. Any culture shock has probably dissipated as migrants have made friends and started families.”

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