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Do Scotland and England & Wales Have Different Views About Immigration?

RS1669 Tmitchell 120908 5320
Published: December 2018

This report compares attitudes towards immigration in Scotland with those in England & Wales.

Aim 

Using data from the 2017 British (BSA) and Scottish (SSA) Social Attitudes surveys, this report details a systematic comparison of attitudes towards immigration in Scotland with those in England & Wales. It examines:

  • the overall prevalence of positive and negative attitudes towards the economic and cultural consequences of immigration in both Scotland and the rest of Britain
  • how these attitudes differ by demographic group on the two sides of the border
  • the association in both Scotland and England & Wales between attitudes towards immigration and political outlook
  • the relationship in England and Scotland between attitudes towards immigration and national identity. (There are too few BSA respondents in Wales to analyse separately the relationship there between national identity and attitudes to immigration.)

Findings

The proportion of people who view the economic and cultural consequences of immigration positively is similar on both sides of the border:

  • In Scotland, more people believe immigration is good for the British economy (46%) than believe it is bad (17%). But the same is true In England & Wales, where 47% think immigration is good for the economy and 16% think it is bad
  • In Scotland, more people think immigration enriches British culture (43%) than undermines it (20%). Again, the picture in England is very similar, with 43% believing immigration has a positive impact upon British culture and 23% believing that it has a negative impact.

The relationship between attitudes towards immigration and demographic characteristics is also similar in both Scotland and England & Wales:

  • On both sides of the border, younger people are more likely than older age groups to regard positively both the economic and cultural consequences of immigration
  • In both Scotland and in England & Wales, those with higher educational qualifications are more likely than those with fewer or no formal qualifications to see immigration as having a positive impact upon both the British economy and British culture.

There are, however, differences across Britain in the relationship between attitudes towards immigration and how people vote:

  • Those who vote for the Conservatives or Labour in Scotland are less likely than the supporters of those parties in England & Wales to hold a favourable view of the economic consequences of immigration
  • Labour and Liberal Democrat voters in Scotland are less likely than the supporters of those parties in England & Wales to take a positive view of the cultural consequences of immigration
  • Those who vote for the SNP generally have a relatively favourable view of the consequences of immigration.

The relationship between attitudes towards immigration and 2016 EU referendum vote is also different on both sides of the border. Remain voters in England & Wales are more likely to feel positive about the consequences of immigration than their counterparts in Scotland:

  • While 56% of Remain voters in Scotland say that immigration has been good for Britain’s economy, 70% of Remain supporters in England & Wales take this view
  • Similarly, while 54% of Remain supporters in Scotland feel that immigration has enriched British culture, 66% of Remain voters in England & Wales adopt this stance.

In Scotland, there is no systematic relationship between national identity and perceptions of the consequences of immigration, in contrast to the position in England:

  • 43% of those in England who say they are ‘English, not British’ believe that immigration is bad for Britain’s economy, compared with 17% of those who feel ‘British, not English’ or ‘More British than English’
  • Similarly, the more strongly that someone feels English relative to their sense of being British, the more likely they are to believe that immigration has undermined Britain’s culture
  • In Scotland, attitudes towards the economic and cultural implications of immigration among those who say they are ‘more Scottish than British’ are similar to those among those who identify as ‘more British than Scottish’.

Methods 

Data for Scotland comes from ScotCen’s annual Scottish Social Attitudes survey, which between July 2017 and February 2018 interviewed a random sample of 1,234 adults aged 16 plus living in private households in Scotland, representing a response rate of 50%.

Data for England and Wales are taken from NatCen’s annual British Social Attitudes survey, which between July and October 2017 interviewed a random sample of 3,988 adults aged 18 plus living in private households in Britain, representing a response rate of 48%. The data used in this report come from a random subset of the 942 respondents in England and Wales who were asked about the economic and cultural consequences of immigration.

Download the report