Four out of 10 Whites Do not Want Black Neighbour, Poll Shows
Vikram Dodd, The Guardian, Jan. 19
Four out of 10 white people do not want an Asian or black Briton as their neighbour, according to a survey published this week.
The opinion poll found rocketing concern about immigration and asylum combined with ignorance about basic facts about the issue and growing resentment.
The Mori survey for Prospect magazine found that 39% of those asked would prefer to live in an area only with people from the same ethnic background. Forty-one per cent of whites and 26% of ethnic minority people surveyed wanted the races to live separately. Over half of all ethnic groups wanted to live in diverse areas.
The poll found older people were most in favour of living apart from other races. Only 40% of people over 55 disagreed with the idea, compared with 64% of 16-to 34-year-olds.
Bobby Duffy, research director at Mori, said: “We have overestimated the progress we have made in race and immigration issues. I’m surprised about such a high finding as people are usually reticent because they worry about being judged by the interviewer, so this finding is worrying.”
The poll shows that the issue of race and immigration has risen up the list of people’s concerns, and is now the third most important, ahead of crime, defence and the economy. The issue is ranked the most important by 29%, behind education on 33% and the NHS on 41%. Ten years ago the figure was below 10%.
Mori said people had a “inflated view of the scale of the issue”, with people overestimating the numbers of first generation immigrants by four times the actual amount. Britons think that first generation immigrants comprise 23% of the population, while the real figure is 6%.
“It’s a monumental shift in people’s concerns,” Mr Duffy said. “We’ve seen economic concerns decline and that seems set to continue, and a rise in concern about public services. The issue of race and immigration threatens to dwarf others.”
Almost one in five people believe immigrants and asylum seekers are responsible for a loss of community spirit, though 40% believe people working longer hours is to blame, with more than a third saying that people watching television or using the internet is the reason for a drop in community cohesion.
The survey also exposes simmering resentments felt by a large section of those surveyed, with nearly half believing that other people are unfairly getting priority over them in public services and welfare payments. Of the 45% who believe the welfare state treats them as second class citizens, 39% blame asylum seekers and new immigrants.
Surveys 10 years ago showed anxiety about “freeloading” by lone parents and the unemployed, but now asylum seekers are the focus of resentment. Among lower socio-economic classes the feeling they are losing out rises above 50%.
One in five people believes immigrants should get less welfare provisions than British citizens, though there is a marked class difference. Just 12% of the top two socio-economic groups support less welfare for immigrants compared to 29% of the lowest two socio-economic groups. This is the group most likely to need welfare and most likely to read rightwing newspapers which have been accused of running a scaremongering campaign against asylum seekers and new immigrants.
The results echo the findings of a poll last year by Mori for the commission for racial equality: one-third of white respondents said they did not mix with ethnic minority people at work, and nearly two-thirds did not meet socially.
Nearly half those polled, 47%, thought racial prejudice had increased in 10 years, compared with 29% who believed it had lessened.
Mori interviewed 1,000 people by telephone across Britain in November 2003