New figures suggest the majority of Brits think new immigrants are good for the UK and co-operation between nations is extremely important – but most of Europe doesn’t agree.
In a global opinion poll of over 10,000 people published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) ahead of Davos 2019, a large majority of people from all over the world rejected the notion that national improvement is a zero-sum game, and said that immigrants benefit their adopted country.
Notably, against a global average of 57%, 60% of UK respondents said they believe new immigrants are mostly good for their nation – even though anti-immigrant was a “major” factor in the Brexit vote, according to a the 2017 British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey by social research institute NatCen.
On the whole, only 46% of those living in Western Europe and 40% of those living in Eastern Europe responded in this way – making Europe the only continent where people view immigrants as “mostly bad.”
The UK government recently announced its new immigration plans for post-Brexit Britain, which include removing preferential access for EU citizens and only allowing immigrants with an annual salary of at least £30,000 ($38,000) to work in Britain.
When asked how important it is that countries work together towards a common goal, a global majority of three-quarters (76%) said they believed it was either extremely important or very important.
However, regional viewpoints differ. People from South Asia and sub-Saharan African felt most strongly that co-operation between nations was important, with 88% sharing that view. At the other end of the scale, 70% of North Americans and 61% of Western Europeans agreed.
These findings mark a stark contrast to the negative coverage of immigration that has often topped the news agenda across Europe, North America and elsewhere, the WEF noted.
The survey also asked about the role of technology in society, and found more people think it does more harm than good than vice versa.
However, when asked whether they believe tech firms are more interested in making the world a better place or making money, responses differed markedly between regions. In Europe, a strikingly low 39% of people said they believe tech firms want to improve society, compared with 64% of East and South Asians, 64% of Pacific peoples, and 66% of sub-Saharan Africans.
The research was commissioned for the WEF’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on 22 to 25 January.
The data will be used in panel discussion and workshops as the forum explores how to foster international collaboration to “solve some of the world’s most critical challenges.”