Brexit has made England an increasingly “hostile and divided” nation, according to the Fear and HOPE 2017 report.
The study revealed that despite the nation becoming more open and tolerant as a whole, responses to Brexit have left Britain more divided.
A quarter of English people think Islam is a dangerous religion that incites violence, with 52 per cent saying that Islam poses a threat to the West and 42 per cent saying that they are more suspicious of Muslims as a result of the recent terrorist attacks.
Older people are more prone to Islamophobia, painting a worrying set of views which will require significant effort to address.
Attitudes towards race, faith and belonging have become increasingly polarised since 2011, and on both the liberal and hostile sides of the spectrum, views have hardened.
Brexit continues to divide opinion and leaves little room for common ground between different ‘identity tribes’ in the research.
Despite recent turbulent events – four terrorist attacks in three months, the Brexit negotiations, the Grenfell Fire – the fourth iteration of HOPE not hate’s survey of 4,000 people in six identity tribes across England suggests that, overall, the country is an increasingly tolerant and open place.
The study also found that:
● The majority of Britons welcomed the acts of unity after the recent terror attacks and want communities to come together. The vast majority (77 per cent) stand firmly against the conflation of extremists’ actions with an entire religion. However, there is a significant minority whose views are hardening since the attacks.
● There is cautious optimism about the economy, but expectations for future economic well-being are clearly split along Brexit divisions, with Remain voters fearful and Leave voters more optimistic.
● Fewer people identify with being English than they did in 2011. Very few Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) identify themselves as English.
● Only six per cent of those surveyed are very confident that Theresa May will secure a good deal for Britain in the EU negotiations.
● A staggering 54 per cent of 18-24 year olds feel represented by Jeremy Corbyn, compared to just 18 per cent of over-65s, who are most likely to identify with Theresa May (42 per cent).
● Brexit divides British society into two very distinct groups and there is little prospect that a deal can be secured without angering and further alienating one or both. Generational splits are clear: over-65s are optimistic about Brexit, with 77 per cent believing we can thrive outside the single market, while only 28 per cent of under-25s agree. There is also very little appetite for reversing the Referendum result.
● Attitudes to the Grenfell Tower disaster have deeply divided the country. Londoners, Labour voters and BAME communities draw a wider lesson about Britain’s unequal society where the poor lose out, while those outside London, Conservatives and Nigel Farage supporters view it as an isolated unfortunate accident.
● Londoners are significantly more liberal towards immigration (17 per cent more likely than those elsewhere in England to believe there is a place for everyone in Britain; 15 per cent more likely to see immigration as a good thing for the country); 86 per cent of Londoners have been impressed with the unity shown by the British population in the face of terror attacks and 64 per cent had noticed Muslim community leaders speaking out about the attacks, compared to 52 per cent of non-Londoners.
● There is a real space for Nigel Farage to setup a new populist right political party, with 15 per cent of people identifying with him as the leader closest to their own views. However, overall sympathy for English nationalism has fallen since 2011, with 74 per cent rejecting equally both Islamist extremists and English nationalists.
● Among the report’s six ‘identity tribes’ (two very positive towards immigration, two strongly opposed, and two in the middle – one which is economically secure, but culturally concerned, and a second group which is more driven by economic insecurity), the two most liberal groups have leapt in size since 2011 (22 per cent), now forming 39 per cent of all respondents. However, the group of those most hostile to immigration has remained constant, leaving a smaller ‘middle ground’ and widening the gap on identity politics.
Nick Lowles, chief executive of HOPE not hate, said: “Despite the turbulent events of recent months, it is heartening to see that England remains, overall, a liberal and tolerant place.
“However, significant challenges remain, with Brexit likely to dominate politics in years to come and set to trigger feelings of betrayal amid a tough period of economic downturn.
“The fear and hostility displayed towards Muslims is deeply worrying, despite most people claiming that they stand firm against extremists’ attempt to conflate their heinous actions with that of an entire religion.
“Clearly there is a lot of work to be done here, both by those tackling hate crimes and misinformation, and potentially by Muslim communities themselves.”