People who oppose immigration in the UK are unhappier than those who support it, and politicians are to blame, a new report suggests.
According to a study by the University of Leicester, Brits who welcome liberal immigration policies are almost 8 percent happier than those who support tougher border controls.
Researchers now believe that politicians’ anti-immigration rhetoric has been “contributing to undermining the subjective well-being of the natives themselves.”
“For the most part, immigration is not a threat to the employment or wages of natives. Economic research on that topic finds that for the economy as a whole, immigration enhances the economic situation of natives – it expands job opportunities and doesn’t undermine wages,” Dr David Bartram said at this year’s British Sociological Association conference.
“Instead it’s the beliefs themselves that people have about immigrants, the way people think about immigrants – they’re not ‘part of us’ – that makes them unhappy about immigrants, and indeed perhaps less happy in general.
“The fall of 8 percent in happiness is significant – equivalent to the gap between the average level of happiness of people earning £50,000 [about US$62,000] and those earning £20,000 a year, for instance.”
The survey also found that only 6 percent would let “many” immigrants enter the country, while 34 percent would allow “some” and 35 percent would accept “a few.” A quarter of those asked would rather allow “none.”
Bartram asked around 6,000 people to describe their feelings about immigration while grading their happiness levels on a scale from 0 to 10.
People wanting to stop more migrants entering Britain scored on average 7.16. Those happy to allow more people into the country averaged 7.91, representing an 8 percent difference.
The comparison was even more noticeable among people out of work due to sickness or disability, where those who would close the border scored 6.19, but those who supported greater migration scored 7.07.
“We would likely see a significant benefit if politicians stopped talking about immigration and immigrants in the way many of them currently do. The current discourse is damaging to natives, and recognition of this idea could amount to reason for reflection,” Bartram added.
“It might seem that I’m telling a very pessimistic story about human nature – the notion that there’s a deeply rooted tendency to be suspicious of something that seems unfamiliar and thus a corresponding tendency to distrust and dislike foreigners.
“But in fact we have plenty of evidence indicating that this way of engaging with foreigners can be unlearned – or at least that a new way of thinking about foreigners can be taught to the next generation. People in the youngest age group are twice as likely as those in the oldest group to say they want to allow this sort of immigration.”
Responding to the findings, Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron told the Independent: “This research reaffirms what we already know in our heart of hearts – that we all have a responsibility for what we say and how we say it.
“More than others perhaps, politicians and the press have a duty to behave responsibly and choose our words and tone carefully. The recent attack on an asylum seeker in Croydon cannot be seen in a vacuum, the toxic rhetoric about migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers coming from some of our most-read papers and politicians (elected or otherwise) must be seen as a contributing factor.
“I hope that this research acts as a wake-up call and reminds those who deliberately stoke and provoke the sort of impact their words can have not only on our happiness but on our communities’ safety and well-being too.”
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