A study of 5,945 schoolchildren nationwide has found widely distorted views about immigrants in Britain, which resulted in their negative attitudes towards immigrants and their own future opportunities.
The survey was carried out by the charity Show Racism the Red Card (SRTRC) and based on questionnaires sent to children aged from 10 to 16 at 60 schools around England from 2012 to 2014.
The study found several misconceptions about immigrants in England. While the true figure for the number of foreign-born people living in the UK is 13%, the average estimate was 47%. Similar misconceptions were held towards Muslims. Such inaccurate impressions consequently created a large degree of anxiety and caused these young people to be much more pessimistic about their future job opportunities.
‘There is clearly a gap between the reality and perception on issues like the number of immigrants or the size of the UK’s Muslim community among some young people. The subsequent levels of hostility towards these groups is very worrying and is something that we, as a society, need to take seriously.’ Dr Paul Jackson from the University of Northampton said.
Ged Grebby, SRTRC’s chief executive, said the findings raised serious questions about the information young people were getting from the media and sharing online, and warned that more needed to be done to prevent them from succumbing to far-right ideologies.
Professor Hilary Pilkington, who has written extensively on young people and the far right, said that the political and educational challenge we now face is to find a way of constructively talking about culture, faith and immigration so that those who are most dispossessed can see the similarities of their precarious positions with those of marginalised ethnic or immigrant communities.