Eight key findings from our “Britain Divided? Rivers of blood: 50 years on” report

Rosie Carter - 16 04 18

Here’s eight key findings.

1. What it means to be British has changed considerably since 2011.

Public attitudes to national belonging are becoming more flexible. Seven years on from when we first asked people this question as part of the first HOPE not hate “Fear and Hope”, people are less likely to see the importance of a person’s birthplace or their parents’ birthplace in determining national belonging. Instead people are more likely to see the most important aspects of being British as tax contribution, holding citizenship, or speaking English.

2. Multiculturalism is a polarising issue.

43% of people feel that Britain is a successful multicultural society where people from different backgrounds generally get along well together. However, a view that ‘multiculturalism has failed’ resonates with a significant share of the population: 41% of our poll, and a massive 67% of Conservative and Leave voters, believe that Britain’s multicultural society isn’t working and different communities generally live separate lives.

3. An increasing number of people think diversity is part of British culture

A majority of people (59%) believe that having a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds is part of British culture. This figure has gradually increased since we first posed the question in 2011, when just 49% of people agreed with the statement.

4. Lots of people think there is inter-community tension (but that’s a smaller group than in the past)

Worryingly, 62% of people believe ‘There is an increasing amount of tension between the different groups living in Britain’. However, this has decreased from 2011 where 71% of people agreed with this statement.

5. Lots of people wrongly think Enoch Powell’s predictions were right

Society has changed considerably from when Enoch Powell made his Rivers of Blood speech, but the fears he stoked linger. While 41% of our poll felt that Powell was wrong in his prediction of conflict and violence, 40% felt that these predictions had been right. Society is clearly not as comfortable with itself as we might think.

6. A majority of people used to be anti-immigration, but now most people think the benefits outweigh any negative impacts

Our YouGov poll reveals a majority of the public (60%) sees immigration as a good thing for the country, while a minority (40%) think its effects are negative. This reflects a gradual liberal shift we have seen in public attitudes since 2011, when the majority of people polled (60%) felt the UK suffered more than it benefitted from immigration.

7. But people’s attitudes towards Islam and Muslims are worsening

Our previous Fear and HOPE report found attitudes towards Muslims in Britain had hardened. Between 2011-2016, attitudes to Muslims in Britain had gradually improved, as part of a broader liberal shift in attitudes. However, this trend had been reversed in the wake of terror attacks in 2017. In our latest poll these fears remain: 37% of people think Islam poses a threat to the British way of life, while 33% see Islam as generally compatible with the British way of life.

8. People want tangible initiatives to increase integration, not gimmicks

There is a consensus across demographic and political groups that language classes, and initiatives that bring people together and limit residential segregation, are important. Despite prominence in current political debates on integration, requiring immigrants swear an oath to British values is not significantly popular across any group – just 11% of people overall feel this would help people to get along better.

You can read the full report here.


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