Most people in Britain think immigrants should speak English and have their access to benefits restricted, but there is a ‘disconnect’ between politicians’ attitudes and public opinion on the issue, a survey has found.
The annual British social attitudes poll revealed that 95 per cent of the population think the English language is the cornerstone of Britishness.
Around three out of four said you must be born in Britain or have lived here for most of your life to be classified as British, and six out of ten think EU migrants should wait three years before claiming benefits.
The poll of 3,000 people was carried out by the state-funded NatCen group last year. It found that politicians contributed to anti-immigrant sentiment because of a ‘growing disconnect’ between the ‘Liberal political class’ and mainstream public opinion on the issue.
The study says: ‘There is a clear and intense demand for action on the issue from one section of the electorate, a demand that politicians ignore at their peril.
‘Yet responding to the concerns of the voters worried about immigration today risks alienating the rising sections of the electorate whose political voice will become steadily louder in elections to come.’
The survey, which has been run every year since 1983, found there has been a hardening of attitudes to immigration in the last decade – the numbers of participants who believe that people must speak English to be British has gone up from 86 per cent to 95 per cent.
Across the same period, the percentage of people who say that to be British you must have lived here most of your life has gone up from 69 per cent to 77 per cent. The survey also revealed that 77 per cent want immigration reduced.
The survey by NatCen also revealed that 77 per cent people in the UK want immigration reduced (file picture). The same percentage believe people have to have lived in the UK for most of their adult life to be British
NatCen’s chief executive Penny Young said: ‘In an increasingly diverse, multi-cultural country, we might expect people to be more relaxed about what it means to be British, yet the trend is going in the opposite direction.
‘It is now harder to be considered British than in the past and one message comes through loud and clear, if you want to be British, you must speak English.
‘As we debate whether Ukip’s vote will hold up in the general election, the survey shows that the public is yet to be convinced that politicians have got a grip on immigration.’
SCOTS WANT TO KEEP THE BBC EVEN IF THEY VOTE TO BE INDEPENDENT
Scots would like to keep the trappings of British life even if they vote to become independent, according to the poll.
The British social attitudes survey found that nearly two thirds of Scots would like to keep the Queen, four out of five want to keep the pound, and only one in seven would lose the BBC.
The majority also want to keep Trident submarines and the nuclear deterrent at Faslane.
But one in three people in England and Wales think Trident submarines should be based outside an independent Scotland.
Professor John Curtice from NatCen said: ‘If Scotland does leave the United Kingdom, Scotland and England will have to find ways of getting along.’
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