Nottingham: Do young people see migration differently?

This week we travelled to Nottingham to hear from our 16 to 22 year old panel, to see whether young people speak differently about immigration. The panel was representative of their age group:  most of the panel were working and relatively few were university students.

The group saw that the benefits of immigration outweighed any disadvantage and in this respect their views differed from other groups the National Conversation has spoken to. All members felt that immigration had had a positive impact on the UK.

“If you think about economically, they kind of, it gives us access to a worldwide market, it gives us access to skills, and cultures, cultural aspects as well, food, society, culture. It encourages society to grow. ”

Participants saw a generational gap between themselves and their families and all panel members had friends who were born outside the UK. The young people viewed immigration as a constant, a part of their life that had “always been that way” and perceived the older generation to see immigration as a change to their lives. Both immigration and the EU referendum had been an area of conflict and division within some of our panel participants’ families.

There was no discussion of pressures on public services, and no negative anecdotes were given on how immigration had adversely affected themselves or people they knew. This may in part have been reflective of their age and current lack of interaction with public services.

There was a strong focus on equality and fairness amongst the panel across all types of immigration to the UK.  The panel were by far the most supportive for allowing refugees in the country of all our conversations so far.  Although there was uncertainty as to where the current figures stand, participants viewed that current levels of immigration should be kept the same or increased, with a reluctance to reduce numbers without reason.

Although the group were distinct from previous panels in their attitude towards immigrants, the youth panel shared other panels concern around security. All members of the group wanted increased checking and criminal vetting on those entering the country. They also felt strongly that migrants and refugees must be making an economic contribution and should not be claiming benefits. As with all panels, they wanted politicians to be truthful, but this was particularly felt in relation to Brexit, and the mistruths they believe they were told.

So do younger people have different attitude to migration? Polling data suggests that 18 to 24 year olds see more benefits than disadvantages and are more likely to support taking more refugees. Our Nottingham panel supports this view, but there is no agreement among experts as to why this is. Some writing suggesting that age differences in attitudes to migration are a consequence of age itself – if you have young children you may be more concerned about the impact of migration on schools. Other researchers argue that younger people in the UK are more likely to have grown up in an ethnically diverse environment and thus be familiar and comfortable with migration.  It is beyond the scope of this project but it would be interesting to see in 10 years how the views of our Nottingham panel might have changed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *