A report for the Welsh Government carried out by WISERD researchers has revealed that a larger proportion of people in Wales hold negative views on immigration compared with other parts of the UK.
The final report for the Welsh Government New Ideas Social Research Fund project entitled ‘Public Sentiments Towards Immigrants and Minorities: The Difference Wales Makes?’ aimed to investigate public sentiments in Wales towards immigrants and minorities.
The research used secondary data from two recent national surveys – the European Social Survey and the Citizenship Survey – to analyse how sentiments towards immigration are different in Wales and how these sentiments relate to national identifications and bilingualism, as well as how sentiments in Wales compare to other nations and regions of the UK.
The analysis discovered that people in Wales have more negative views on the impact of immigration and are more supportive of reducing the levels of immigration; similar to views of people in Northern England and the Midlands. Conversely, people in Scotland, London and Northern Ireland reflected more favourable attitudes towards the impact of immigration and support for reducing the number of immigrants was not so high.
Reflecting on these findings, co-author of the report Dr Robin Mann (WISERD, Bangor University), said: “It might be a surprise, in that you might expect Wales and Scotland to be quite similar – and of course, what we found was that Wales seems more similar to the majority of England than it does to Scotland.”
Despite the small sample sizes that were used, data was analysed from two successive surveys between 2008 and 2010 enabling comparisons to be drawn between regions in the UK and over a period of time.
“This is a small and exploratory study and we have to remember that what people say in a survey cannot be taken as a reflection of how people get on with each other within communities. This said the data does give us a general picture into what people think about the idea of immigration” Dr Mann added.
The report has helped to provide an overall picture of attitudes in Wales towards immigration and how these attitudes compare with other parts of the UK. The findings from the report will aim to feed into existing Welsh Government policy areas of equality and inclusion, and link closely to the monitoring and evaluation of the Welsh Government’s community cohesion strategy.
“The message from both the Scottish and Welsh governments is very much pro-immigration and has been for several years. The Welsh Government has done a lot of good and important work in terms of developing policies such as its Migrants Forum, and Refugee Inclusion Strategy. But it would seem that people are still somewhat unhappy with the idea of immigration.
“The reason for this difference could be that, compared to Wales, Scotland has a stronger economic and political voice, which sets its own agenda on immigration and is thereby able to ‘soak up’ these sorts of anti-immigration sentiments, to albeit only to an extent” Dr Mann concluded.
The final report of the study was published in May 2012. For further details about the research and to view the report in full, please visit the project website here.