3 in 4 Britons believe in the right to seek refuge, but 2 in 5 want to shut borders completely at this time

The survey, conducted online among adults aged under 74 across 28 countries, shows how Britons and those around the world view refugees and how much should be done to help them at this time

The author(s)

  • Jessica Bruce Public Affairs
  • Charlotte Peel Public Affairs
  • Ilya Cereso Public Affairs
  • Jessica Pace Public Affairs
  • Robert Wragg Public Affairs
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A global survey by Ipsos shows almost three-quarters of Britons (73%) agree with the principle that people should be able to take refuge in other countries, including Britain, to escape from war or persecution. Only 17% of Britons disagree with this, which is lower than the average across the 28 countries (23%). However, although the proportion of people disagreeing with the right to seek refuge has remained largely the same since 2020 (15%), the proportion of Britons agreeing has decreased by 5 percentage points (78%).

The survey, conducted online among adults aged under 74 across 28 countries, finds that despite wide support for the right to take refuge, opinion remains split as to whether Britain must close its borders at the current time. Around 2 in 5 Britons (42%) agree we must close our borders to refugees entirely and that we cannot accept any refugees at this time (similar to last year), while around half disagree (49%).  Britons are slightly less in favour of closing borders to refugees than elsewhere. On average, across the 28 countries surveyed, half (50%) agree to closing borders, while 43% disagree – largely unchanged since 2020. 

More than half of Britons are sceptical about those trying to get into the country as refugees. Fifty-six per cent say most foreigners trying to come into Britain really aren’t refugees and that instead they just want to come here for economic reasons or to take advantage of our welfare services. This is an increase of 5 percentage points since 2020 (51%). A third (34%) disagree with this – a similar picture to last year (34%).  Britons are less sceptical compared with the global country average, where, 62% agree with this and 3 in 10 (30%) disagree. 

Opinion is split as to whether refugees successfully integrate into their new society. Almost half of Britons (48%) agree most refugees will successfully integrate, while 41% disagree. This picture remains largely unchanged since 2020 (when 51% agreed and 39% disagreed) and is similar to the average across the 28 countries for 2021 (47%).

Four in ten Britons (39%) say we should be less open to accepting refugees than before the COVID-19 outbreak. This is broadly in line with the global country average, where 42% want their countries to become less open to accepting refugees. However,1 in 5 Britons (19%) say we should be more open, which is higher than the global country average (14%) and an increase of 4 percentage points since 2020.  Around a third of Britons (32%) say we should be as open as we were before the outbreak – largely unchanged since 2020 (33%). 

Similarly, around 1 in 5 Britons (18%) say we should increase the level of spending on support for refugees around the world due to the due to the outbreak of COVID-19 – this is slightly higher than the global country average (14%) and an increase of 6 percentage points since 2020. However, four in ten (39%) want Britain to decrease the amount it spends on support for refugees around the world and around a third (32%) want to keep the same level of spending as before the pandemic – largely unchanged since last year. 

You can read more about the global results, and the results of other countries on our global website or in the charts linked at the bottom of the page.

Ben Page, CEO of Ipsos MORI, said:

These new findings suggest a hardening of attitudes towards refugees entering the UK.  Although a majority believe that people should be able to seek refuge in another country in principle, there is also growing cynicism about whether those entering the country are genuinely seeking refuge, with a growing number of Britons saying that they believe the majority of arrivals to be economic migrants.

Technical Note

  • These are the results of a 28-market survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 19,510 adults, aged 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey, and age 16-74 in 23 other markets between Friday, May 21st and Friday, June 4th, 2021.
  • The sample consists of approximately 1,000 individuals in each of Australia, Belgium, Canada, mainland China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the United States, and 500 individuals in each of Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Hungary, India, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, and Turkey.
  • The samples in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the US can be taken as representative of their general adult populations under the age of 75.
  • The samples in Brazil, mainland China, Chile, Colombia, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Turkey are more urban, more educated, and/or more affluent than the general population. The survey results for these countries should be viewed as reflecting the views of the more “connected” segment of their population.
  • The data is weighted so that each country’s sample composition best reflects the demographic profile of the adult population according to the most recent census data.
  • The “Global Country Average” reflects the average result for all the countries and markets where the survey was conducted. It has not been adjusted to the population size of each country or market and is not intended to suggest a total result.
  • Where results do not sum to 100 or the “difference” appears to be +/-1 more/less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses, or the exclusion of “don’t know” or not stated responses.
  • The precision of Ipsos online polls is calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to +/- 3.5 percentage points and of 500 accurate to +/- 5.0 percentage points. For more information on the Ipsos use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website.
  • The publication of these findings abides by local rules and regulations.
     

The author(s)

  • Jessica Bruce Public Affairs
  • Charlotte Peel Public Affairs
  • Ilya Cereso Public Affairs
  • Jessica Pace Public Affairs
  • Robert Wragg Public Affairs

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