Young people think a steady stream of immigrants is eroding Britain’s national identity and threatening jobs, a survey said today.
Almost two-thirds (60%) of the young people surveyed in the poll by the British Council thought the presence of foreign immigrants was “diluting” their sense of national identity.
A quarter said immigrants posed a threat to British workers’ jobs and 12% said they thought the influx of people from abroad was a risk to security and public order.
Two thousand people aged between 18 and 35 were asked about their attitude towards immigration and their sense of national identity.
The survey comes as shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve warned that multiculturalism in the UK has left a “terrible” legacy, creating a vacuum that has been filled by extremists.
In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Grieve said: “We’ve actually done something terrible to ourselves in Britain. In the name of trying to prepare people for some new multicultural society we’ve encouraged people, particularly the sort of long-term inhabitants, to say ‘well your cultural background isn’t really very important’.”
He told the newspaper that long-term inhabitants have been left fearful, while second- and third-generation immigrants have felt alienated and unsure what British values stand for.
Both the survey and Grieve’s comments come on the eve of the Conservative Party conference.
The British Council said the results of this week’s survey were “worrying”.
“This study throws up some interesting reflections, and also some rather worrying results,” said Paul Docherty, the director of the British Council in Italy.
“Although there are many areas where British and Italian young people have a positive outlook, it is clear that there are stark challenges facing our societies in staying in touch with our younger generation and addressing some of their fears.”
The survey was split between young people in Italy and the UK and was commissioned by the British Council ahead of its annual Anglo-Italian conference to discuss how political establishments can stay in touch with young people’s fears and ambitions.
In spite of greater European integration since the Maastricht Treaty was signed in 1992, just 7% of Britons surveyed said they felt like a European citizen, while 40% considered themselves to be British.
But, while some young people said they felt detached from Europe, over half said they thought the EU helped defend citizen’s rights, and 38% said it had a positive influence over the economy.
“The study was commissioned to inform debate at the Anglo-Italian conference held every year, but I am sure that the results will provide a useful point of reference for a number of other programmes in Europe and beyond,” Mr Docherty said.