Reasons to be cheerful

Our research actually shows a continued liberal shift in social attitudes.

Our Fear and Hope report paints a bleak picture of attitudes in Britain, a nation more pessimistic than optimistic about the future, with a lack of consensus on brexit and declining trust, greater fragmentation and growing antagonism between us, and widespread hostility towards Muslims.

But behind these headlines, our research actually shows a continued liberal shift in social attitudes. Here are some reasons to have hope:

People see immigration and multiculturalism more and more positively
  • Our latest Fear and HOPE poll finds that support for immigration continues to grow incrementally, with the share of those who think that immigration has been more good than bad for the country up to 63% from 60% in July 2018, and 40% in February 2011.
  • The proportion of people who feel that having a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures is part of British culture has increased from 49% in 2011 to 63 in May 2019. The proportion of people who think that having a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures has undermined British culture has decreased from 51% in 2011 to 37% in May 2019.

The combination of the Extinction Rebellion protests in London over Easter, which saw over 1,100 people arrested during a week of civil disobedience in the capital, and the airing of Sir David Attenborough’s ‘Climate Change – The Facts’ documentary on the BBC in the same week, had a profound effect on the public opinion.
  • HOPE not hate’s polling, conducted in the last few days of April, saw the Environment become the third most important issue in the minds of voters after Brexit and health. Ranked as one of their top issues by 27% of voters, this put concern for the environment above the economy, crime and education. This was a sharp jump from even last summer, when the Environment ranked as the seventh most important issue at just 17%.
  • Across the whole population, there is overwhelming support for greater action to protect the environment, with 79% agreeing with the statement that “We must all be prepared to make some sacrifices to our lifestyles in order to stop global warming”. Only 6% disagreed. Support for action crossed all political, gender and age categories, including three-quarters of all Conservative voters, 74% of 2016 Leave voters and even 63% of people who voted UKIP in 2015. Even Farage supporters backed this statement by a margin of four to one and Yaxley-Lennon supporters by almost three to one.

The public now believe that the far right pose the greatest threat to community cohesion, more so than Islamist extremist groups. But we also find that the far right remains marginalised in the UK, as evidenced by Tommy Robinson’s poor performance in the recent European elections, with the majority of the population concerned about, but also resilient to, narratives of hate.
  • Our polling from January 2019 has found that more people have heard of Tommy Robinson (55%) than have not (45%), however, of those who had heard of him, 70% viewed him negatively, with his main support coming from white, working class, UKIP voting men (though not necessarily older) and his main opposition coming from more educated, middle class, city residents.
  • In our new fear and hope polling, we asked people’s opinion of Tommy Robinson again, and found that he continues to be seen in overwhelmingly negative terms. The vast majority of people see Tommy Robinson between 0-10 (42%), on a scale of 0-100, where 0 means very unfavourable and 100 means very favourable. Just 2% placed themselves at 91-100, or very positively.
  • Violence remains a red line that limits far right support, and the vast majority of people would actively oppose a campaign that became, or threatened violence.

The future is bright: Young people hold far more open and progressive views about the world around them
  • Younger people are far more comfortable with multiculturalism and diversity. Among 18-24s 77% think that having a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures is part of British culture. 50% of over 65s think that this has undermined British culture.
  • 75% of 18-24 year olds think that on the whole, immigration into Britain has been a good thing for the country. Just 54% of over 65s share this view. More than twice as many people over 65 (60%) as 18-24s (24%) think that new immigrants are given priority ahead over established residents when it comes to benefits or using public services.

Read the full report

Fear and HOPE 2019 is the latest in our on-going analysis of British society and the attitudes of its citizens.

DISCLAIMER: This report was funded and published by the HOPE not hate Charitable Trust.
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