Paris attacks have not changed Britons' view on refugees much

A new survey by Ipsos MORI reveals British attitudes towards the refugee crisis and its entanglement with national security. The exclusive poll uniquely captures public attitudes both before and after the tragic events in Paris last weekend.

A new survey by Ipsos MORI reveals British attitudes towards the refugee crisis and its entanglement with national security. The exclusive poll uniquely captures public attitudes both before and after the tragic events in Paris last weekend.

On the potential threats to Britain post-Paris, the vast majority (95%) of Britons think there is a very or somewhat real threat of a terrorist attack in Britain. This represents an increase of ten points on October’s figure (85%).


More than eight in ten Britons (84%) think there is a very or somewhat real threat that Britain will be involved in a war with another country. This is a 15 point increase on October’s figure (69%).

Against this backdrop, the willingness of Britons to consider more active intervention in Syria has increased since 2013 – the time of David Cameron’s unsuccessful attempt to gain the support of the House of Commons for military action. Just three in ten (30%) continue to think the problems in Syria are none of our business and that we should not interfere; this is around half the level (58%) seen in September 2013.


Over half (54%) now think that doing nothing in Syria is worse than taking military action, which is an increase of fourteen points (from 40%) since September 2013. A third (33%) also think Britain doing nothing in Syria will damage the country’s relationship with the USA. However, eight in ten (79%) think such action will encourage attacks in Britain (up two points from September 2013).

In terms of other potential threats to Britain, seven in ten (69%) think there is a threat of inter-ethnic/inter-minority violence in Britain (up ten points, from 59% in October). A similar proportion (68%) think there is a threat of chemical, nuclear or biological attack somewhere in the world (up four points, from 64%).

But the attacks have not shaken the British public’s confidence in the government to provide the appropriate levels of protection in the event of a terrorist attack on British soil. Over six in ten (63%) are confident that the British government would afford them the appropriate level of protection in the event of a terror attack, a figure that is unchanged on October’s. The same proportion (63%) is confident the government will provide appropriate protection during an international war. Six in ten (61%) think the same in the event of their personal or family safety being violated, as do the same proportion (60%) in the event of inter-ethnic violence.


The Paris attacks also appear to have affected views of refugees, but often not greatly, and there has been less change in our attitudes to immigration as a whole.


Key findings

  • Most Britons (54%) continue to sympathise greatly with refugees of this autumn’s crisis (up three points from October).
  •  Positive attitudes towards immigration’s overall impact on Britain have also increased by three points since October to 34%.
  • However only a quarter (25%) think that we should modify normal security screening of refugees in a humanitarian emergency to admit them to the country as quickly as possible, compared to 35% who said the same in October.
  • Fewer members of the public also think Britain has room to take in refugees. Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed now believe Britain has the room compared to 35% in October.
  • There has been less change in levels of confidence around how successfully refugees will integrate into British society in future. Over four in ten (43%) say they are confident refugees can integrate, down from 47% in October.
  • Fewer people are prepared to take a refugee into their home now than before the Paris tragedy (15% down from 23% in October).
  • The support for aid to refugee camps in areas of conflict has slightly increased by four points to 64%(from 60% in October) while more now believe Britain should help other European countries taking in refugees (up to 43% from 36%). Forty-six percent also think the government should support community groups who would provide housing and promote self-sufficiency for refugees accepted into Britain (up three points). Britons are less likely to think Britain should accept more refugees, decreasing from over one in three (35%) in October to three in ten (30%) now.
  • More Britons want to see increased security procedures when dealing with the refugee crisis. Eighty-three percent want an increase in the UK’s border patrols and checks compared to 72% who wanted increased security before the Paris tragedy. Eighty-six percent also want to see proper security screenings for refugees regardless of their situation (up from 79%).
  • More Britons are now concerned with the prospect of terrorists exploiting the refugee crisis to enter Britain. Eight in ten (81%) now think terrorists are posing as refugees to get into Britain (up from 72% since October).
  • Over four in ten Britons (44%) believe that the borders should be closed to all refugees – up five points from October.
  • Just two in five (39%) think people are using worries about terrorism to turn away refugees down from 45% in October.

Bobby Duffy, Managing Director of Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute, said:

"This sense of threat may be influencing the increased focus on control of refugee numbers and security checks - although we need to remember that this survey was conducted very soon after the attacks and this may be a short lived reaction. We have also seen very little change in wider views on immigration which suggests that people are not generalising too widely as a result of one tragic event."

Technical note:

The latest survey was conducted online 18-19 November and is compared with results from two surveys also conducted online in October. The first on Ipsos’s G@ conducted between 25 September - 9 October and a second Ipsos MORI’s Unbound immigration survey conducted between 15-19 October. The samples are all approximately 1,000 British adults aged 16-75 (for the most recent survey) and 16-64 (for the preceding two surveys) and weighted to the national profile of Britain.

More insights about Culture