ARTICLES “Over the last six years, we have become a more open, tolerant country”

Image, DIAC images, CC 2.0

“Over the last six years, we have become a more open, tolerant country”

HOPE not hate’s Fear and HOPE report has charted attitudes towards race, faith, immigration and belonging in England since 2011. The most detailed survey of its kind asks over 4,000 people 140 questions pertinent to current events. Our fourth report looks at economic pessimism, the effects of the Brexit vote, the recent attacks on Manchester and London and responses to the Grenfell Tower fire to offer a snapshot of the nation’s views.

Generational differences have dominated commentary around a number of key events in recent years. The vote to leave the EU caused fury among the younger generation, given the high share of leave voters among the 65+ age set and the strong remain vote among 18-24 year olds. The 2017 election has also been seen this generational divide, as the youth vote ‘got its own back’ on Brexit. Young people were seen to be critical in the unexpected swing towards Labour as liberal young voters surged to the ballot box.

Indeed, our poll finds a staggering 54% of 18-24 year olds saying that Jeremy Corbyn best represents their views, while 42% of the 65s+ identify with Theresa May. On Brexit, the generational splits are clear. The over-65s are optimistic about Brexit: 77% believe we can thrive outside of the single market, while only 28% of under-25s agree. Most older voters believe leaving the single market is a price to pay to end free movement into the UK, while most under-25s reject that possibility. The younger generation evidently fears the outcomes of Brexit, while the vast majority of over-65s would feel angered if the UK reversed its decision to leave the EU.

But on key issues, the generations are not miles apart and it is the middle age groups who sit apart from youthful optimism. Both the older and younger age groups feel more optimistic than pessimistic about the future than the average person.

On immigration, the young are more enthusiastic: 68% feel that it has been good for the country. But the majority of both generations feel that it has had a positive impact, putting the over-65s ahead of middle-aged groups in their support for immigration. However, the old do seem more stuck in their ways about some things. This older age set is more sceptical about multiculturalism than the average person, and Islamophobia appears more common among the older generation.

There is room for agreement between the generations, and age divides may not be as engrained as first thought. However, Brexit is clearly a huge factor separating the young from the old which could widen the gap as negotiations begin.