Verses: Is The UK Mainly Against Immigration?

Verses: The Versed considers current social, cultural, and political issues and weighs up both sides of the argument.

Trump’s 2016 bid for the US presidency and the UK’s Vote Leave campaign both included anti-immigration rhetoric, and both succeeded. Does this mean those in the US and UK who are anti-immigration outnumber those who are pro-immigration? At the very least, these two victories show there is an appetite for a harder line on immigration in both countries.

In the months following Brexit, instances of race-related crimes increased and support for far-right activists like Tommy Robinson surged, while in the US, racists felt emboldened by Trump’s election, sparking violent clashes between white supremacist marchers and protesters.

But do these victories paint a picture of two countries who are mostly opposed to immigration or rather two countries attempting to push back against the establishment?

Photo by Global Justice Now

Anti-immigration

It’s almost impossible to know exactly how many votes for Brexit were votes in favour of tighter border control. However, Nigel Farage, known for his strong anti-immigration stance, was one of the campaign’s central proponents. A vote for Brexit meant aligning with him, to some degree.

Data collected on UK residents by The Versed showed that the age group who most want immigration laws relaxed are between 16-24, and those who most want it to be limited are between the ages of 35-44.

But more than a quarter of those who are 55+ think that immigration should be completely limited. This shows a clear difference in attitudes between depending on the age of participants.

On the whole, though, figures collected by The Versed show that most of those who took part said that immigration should be limited or stopped completely.

These findings have been mirrored in other recent opinion polls and surveys. One such study carried out by Dr Scott Blinder and Dr Lindsay Richards of The Migration Observatory at Oxford University reached similar conclusions.

They found that “Overall, British views are not favourable towards immigration and a substantial majority would like immigration to be reduced”. Their results were published in June 2018.

Photo by Avaaz

Pro-immigration

What’s important to note is that attitudes are constantly changing in the UK. The same study from The Migration Observatory also found that despite a majority being against immigration, “there is evidence from multiple sources showing that attitudes have softened in recent years”.

Dr Scott Blinder and Dr Lindsay Richards’ data shows that the trend of softening attitudes actually continued post-Brexit referendum. “Comparing attitudes before and after the referendum from within the same groups of individuals suggests that both Leavers and Remainers have softened in their attitudes towards immigration”.

The rise in racially aggravated crime post-Brexit, therefore, doesn’t necessarily reflect the national mood as a whole.

While the government continues to enforce a ‘hostile environment’ policy that treats migrants as guilty until proven innocent – as seen in the Windrush scandal – the second largest party in parliament, in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, are actively pro-immigration, and they won a vote share of 40% in the 2017 general election.

This shows there are vast swathes of the country who would likely prefer a softer approach to immigration. But despite the gradual relaxing of attitudes toward immigration in the general public, the party in power is only likely to tighten immigration laws.

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