Many young people have negative attitudes towards immigration, believing that Muslims are “taking over” the country and foreign-born workers are “stealing jobs”, according to a new study.
The research, conducted by Show Racism The Red Card, suggests that misconceptions about migration and other cultures are rife, fuelled by distorted views about the numbers of immigrants living in the UK.
It found that more than a third (35%) of the almost 6,000 pupils questioned believed that “Muslims are taking over England” and that more than one in four (28%) that jobs being taken by foreign workers might stop them reaching their goals.
The research, part of a two-year programme of work by the charity designed to combat the influence of far-right groups on young people, surveyed 10 to 16-year-olds in 60 schools across England who took part in anti-racism workshops between April 2012 and April 2014.
It found that youngsters overestimated the number of foreign-born people living in the UK, suggesting that around 47% were born overseas. In reality, 2011 census data indicates that the actual figure is around 13%, the charity said.
Of the 3,362 youngsters who answered the survey between April and November 2012, nearly half (49%) had agreed that migration to the UK is out of control or not being managed properly.
And of the 2,638 who were polled between November 2012 and April last year, even more (60%) believed it was true that “asylum seekers and immigrants are stealing our jobs”.
The study did find that when asked how they would describe what it means to be British to someone from another country, many of the answers young people gave were positive, highlighting areas such as the NHS, the education system, freedom of thought and even the weather.
It also reveals that many youngsters have concerns about the future, with 35% of all of those surveyed saying they do not think they will achieve their potential at school, and 40% saying they do not believe they will have enough, or earn enough money in the future.
Over two in five (43%) think that there is a lack of work opportunities, the study found, while “jobs” was the most used phrase by young people when asked about the negative aspects of living in a multicultural country.
“This data provides an evidence base which supports our experience in recent years working with young people throughout the UK; the presence of fears and misconceptions about issues of immigration, Islamophobia and ‘Britishness’,” said Chief Executive Ged Grebby of Show Racism The Red Card.
“Through Show Racism The Red Card’s work in schools we have found that there is a large amount of negativity when young people are asked questions about ‘immigration’ or ‘Muslims’. This survey shows that this is fuelled by a totally distorted view of the number of immigrants and Muslims in the UK.”
“It is only once we acknowledge the existence of these attitudes and identify the influences at work that we can deliver the right kind of educational interventions to help build the capacity to resist racist ideas and attitudes among young people.”