The issue of how to respond to refugees fleeing from the war in Syria has been rumbling on for months, but became far more of an issue last week because of photographs of the body of toddler Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach and media coverage of groups of refugees travelling across Hungary.

The coverage provoked a strong reaction on social media and led to petitions and campaigns in favour of Britain doing more to welcome more Syrian refugees to the country. There was a perception that public opinion had shifted in favour of doing more to help Syrian refugees as a result of the emotive photographs. However, social media is not necessarily reflective of wider public opinion, people making a noise and signing petitions are not necessarily reflective of those keeping quiet. Is there any actual hard evidence that people have become more welcoming towards Syrian refugees… or did that proportion of British people who have always welcomed refugees just speak up more vocally?

Since last week there have been polls from ComRes, Survation and YouGov asking about whether Britain should accept more Syrian refugees:

ComRes for Newsnight (tabs) asked if Britain should take more or fewer refugees from Syria and Libya than it currently does – 40% said more, 31% fewer, 26% about the same. A later question asked if Britain was taking its fair share of responsibility to deal with people coming to Europe from Syria, and found a pretty similar split: 39% said Britain wasn’t doing enough, 22% too much, 36% about the right amount.

Survation for the Mail on Sunday (tabs) asked how many Syrian refugees people thought Britain should accept: 29% said none at at all, 27% less than 10,000, 15% 10,000, 9% more than 10,000. They also asked specifically about Yvette Cooper’s suggestion of each local authority taking 10 families – 35% supported, 42% opposed.

Finally YouGov asked some questions split between the Sun, ITN and their own site (tabs here, here and here). They found 50% of people said that Britain should be doing more to deal with the migrant crisis… but of course, “doing more” does not necessarily equate to letting more people in. Some respondents could have imagined doing more as meaning doing more to help refugees in camps in the Middle East, or doing more to prevent refugees getting into Europe. Asking specifically about the number of Syrian refugees that should be allowed into Britain 36% said that we accept a higher number of refugees from Syria, 24% about the same number, 27% fewer or none at all.

YouGov also asked how many Syrian families should be allowed into Britain, but most respondents said don’t know (perhaps because YouGov asked about families, rather than individuals, or perhaps because the Survation survey had already asked about Yvette Cooper’s proposal of 10,000, so respondents had a reference point for their answer). 22% said Britain should not accept any Syrian refugee families, 14% less than 10,000, 8% more than 10,000.

Overall the three points paint a pretty consistent picture. A significant minority of the British public want the country to accept more refugees from Syria, but it is a minority. Most people think the current numbers are about right or we should admit even less, a significant minority would like to accept none at all.

But even if most people don’t want to accept more Syrian refugees, did last week’s harrowing coverage increase support for accepting Syrian refugees at all? YouGov found 9% of people said seeing the images of Aylan Kurdi changed their view and made them think we should accept more refugees, however I’m always rather dubious about such questions. What we really need is a question that was asked before and after to see how views have changed. The only one I can find is in this YouGov poll. Way back in May 29% of people agreed with the statement that the UK should be a place of refuge for Syrian refugees, when that was reasked last week it had gone up to 41%. With four months between the figures it’s not possible to pin it upon a single event, but it does look as if people have indeed become significantly more positive towards the idea of accepting refugees from Syria over the last few months… opinion just hasn’t moved so much that a majority would welcome more Syrian refugees.

464 Responses to “Has Britain become more welcoming towards refugees?”

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  1. @ Roger Mexico

    I thanked for the information but it went into moderation.

    @Amber Star

    Nice to see your comment.

  2. COLIN

    I suspect you are correct about how things will be played by Corbyn.

    He is a new and interesting voice at the top of British politics and may well get a honeymoon period from the voters in polls. However I would be surprised if this lasts especially as the Labour party is going to be seen as very divided, as it clearly is at the moment.

    My advice to the Tories is to continue to cement the idea that their policies represent the middle ground of Briish politics. That way they should indeed win the next two elections. The danger for them is complacency and/or a sharp move to the right. Whilst I would like the latter the electorate probably woudn’t.

  3. TOH

    I agree totally about Con complacency. We have seen in Greece how fickle public opinion can be. Syriza rode to power on a populist tide of Anti-Austerity sentiment-now they are struggling to stay in power, with the centre right neck & neck in the polls.

    This could occur here-the other way round.

    I heard Frank Field this morning put his finger on a key point. In five years time ,” austerity ” may be over in UK, and a wave of uncontrolled EU immigration might send border controls & national security to the top of the agenda here.

    Corbyn needs to be careful of getting left behind in 2015 ( as well as 1982 !)

  4. TOH
    ‘I agree with your logic and would be happy if both parties were banned.’

    When would you like Cameron to put forward his Enabling Act?

  5. Colin

    I suspect that it is much more likely that by 2020 the economy will again have gone ‘tits up’ and that Osborne’s credibility will have been shot to pieces.

  6. Oldnat

    “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” (Mark Twain)”

    That brought a real smile to my face cos if you trade 14 for 13 (and thus 21 for 20 obviously) it described my thoughts exactly. I can honestly say you’ve changed my perspective, maybe I’ll cut the old guy some slack every once in a while ;)

  7. So pleased to see you back Amber.

  8. You, good to see Amber back, and Crossbat the other day. All such positive occurrences are welcome, given what’s happening in the cricket…

  9. You = yep…

  10. Been away for a while, but have tried to catch up. We live in interesting times and this site is certainly enlightening me.

    I don’t see much debate about the quite extraordinarily abysmal performance of Liz Kendall. Worse than derisory, and the voting system offers no excuses. The Blairites have been totally eclipsed.

    I have said before that we are witnessing the birth of a new major political party, almost unrecognisable from its predecessor. Others have claimed that the Blairites were an unrepresentative cohort before this contest, and that my be true, but the point is that they held sway and now they quite definitely don’t – bit like the Alawites in Syria…

    New Labour is utterly finished and there is no way back. The Labour Party will now be a genuinely left-wing party for the foreseeable future.

    It was good to see Corbyn win with a landslide as this means there are no rumblings of discontent – the old guard and Blairites were trounced fair and square. Corbyn must now be given his chance to create a new style of politics: I agree with Colin, this is a ‘movement’ not a traditional top-down party. It might be refreshing.

    But, oh my, it is going to be interesting, as the whole PLP situation unwinds. I don’t see a big split, and I think Corbyn will be clever, and generous. But there will be certain individuals who will depart the scene. Liz K and Tristram Hunt standing in 2020? I don’t think so. Threats of deselection all over the place, no doubt.

    Labour, barring economic meltdown, will surely lose in 2020, but I doubt that this will herald a return to the centre-ground. The Party has shifted ground so completely, and the rout of the centrists has been so total, that it will take a lot longer than five years to turn the tide once more.

    We are possibly seeing the creation of a UKIP of the left, a smaller party of very committed and enthusiastic supporters, who are happier being out of power, but true to their political philosophy.

    This cannot mean a one-party state, so there will be a political vacuum, and I have no idea what will fill it.


    Quite right about the Greens: what is now the point? As the Greens have adopted a strong socialist position, to the left of New Labour, and Corbyn is very committed to green issues, there is very little to choose between them.

    After Old Labour and New Labour, what is wrong with Green Labour?

    Its a no-brainer.

    And where would that leave Farron’s left-leaning Liberals?

    I’m not sure a Grand Coalition of the Left is such a distant prospect these days.

    But they will still lose.

  11. Does anyone have the link to the YouGov Scottish poll tables? Or the Panelbase tables?

    Panelbase will probably be a while but YouGov in the press on Saturday should be published by now.

  12. @Millie

    Paddy Ashdown was on Sky making a plea for the Blairites to join the LibDems. Unfortunately they lost connection before he could answer SDP Mark 2 question.

    Some Blairites are leaving the party, could be an opportunity for LibDems but the LibDems seem very weak at the moment and possibly unable to capitalise

  13. @Millie

    New Labour only hold influence in the PLP now. However, that is the most critical part of the party.

    I don’t think the PLP will split, as the New Labour element has nowhere to go.

    They have don’t have any significant membership to support them (or probably voters willing to back them). I’m not sure they could raise much money either. They would have no organisation capability to campaign and fight elections. They have survived by using the money and organisation of the Labour Party as whole. Would cuckoo be a fair description?

    Would they cross to the Conservatives? I doubt it.

    Regarding the Greens, in a sense they have always been a movement more than a party. If others parties with a better organisation or capability to deliver power took on 90% of their aims, I suspect most Greens would not mind. It’s my observation that GP members are far less tribal than members of the main parties.

  14. @Couper2802
    Paddy Ashdown was on Sky making a plea for the Blairites to join the LibDems. Unfortunately they lost connection before he could answer SDP Mark 2 question.
    Some Blairites are leaving the party, could be an opportunity for LibDems but the LibDems seem very weak at the moment and possibly unable to capitalise”

    No real chance of that, as the the Blairites are far too authoritarian to be LD’s. They didn’t lose out because they were centrists (I don’t think they are) but because they had little to offer that wouldn’t take Labour down a Tory road – more privatisation, more private and voluntary sector involvement in the public services, more free schools etc. Why would anyone inclined to believe those policies are correct not vote Tory in 2020?

    The LDs are the genuine centrist party of the UK. They don’t have any qualms about picking and mixing from left and right where appropriate. They support the social liberty of the invididual from the state. They believe in war only as a last resort and within the strict confines of international law. Blairites don’t believe this. Well very few do. Maybe Chuka Umunna.

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