The future of the left since 1884

Fear, hope and loss

Public anxieties on immigration and integration throw up a challenge to Labour, as Rosie Carter explains in a contribution to the debate around our Open and Ethical pamphlet.


Long read

HOPE not hate’s first Fear and Hope report in 2011 broke away from traditional attitudinal studies. We found a traditional class-based political axis failed to explain attitudes to culture and identity, which reflect personal experiences and life circumstances that frame a larger worldview.

We developed six identity ‘tribes’, each representing a set of views on economic optimism and pessimism, community, values, immigration, race and religion. At one end sit liberals and multiculturalists, while at the other sit those who are hold latent and actively hostile views. In the middle sits a more ambivalent group, sensitive to economic conditions which may drive them towards more hostile views, and an economically secure group with cultural anxieties.

While the debate on immigration often gets split into identity issues versus standard of living, our research, recommissioned four times over the last seven years, finds drivers of hate are often more complex and identity issues are dialled up or down depending on how the economy is doing. We have found that when economic conditions improve and people feel more optimistic about their own quality of life, they are likely to be less anxious about change. Despite this, cultural concerns remain embedded and over recent years views have become increasingly polarised.

Shifting attitudes: From immigration to integration

Over six years, our Fear and Hope reports have traced a shift in concerns, with a growing proportion of the population holding more liberal and open attitudes towards immigration and multiculturalism. At the same time, the proportion of people holding hostile attitudes has remained around the same size, and among many with the toughest views towards immigration, views have hardened. Anxieties around immigration have relaxed, but hostility has been distilled, increasingly targeted towards Muslims and Islam in Britain, with concerns around integration rinsing to the forefront of public anxieties.

Our July 2018 YouGov poll found 60 per cent of people think that immigration has been good for Britain, up from 40 per cent when people were asked the same question in 2011. The reasons for this more positive view of immigration are complicated, but much can be attributed to a broader liberal shift in public attitudes, increased diversity, an improvement in economic conditions. For those with more hostile attitudes, a sense that Brexit might solve the ‘immigration problem’ has reduced concern.

However, Muslims are seen as uniquely different from the majority of the British public, and distinctly different from other religious groups. In our July 2017 poll, just 10 per cent of the total public believed Muslims are similar to them. We found that public perceptions of community relations were cynical, and at odds with the more convivial reality in the UK. A view that ‘multiculturalism has failed’ resonates with a significant share of the population: 41 per cent of our March 2018 poll believe that Britain’s multicultural society isn’t working and different communities generally live separate lives.

The spate of terror attacks which hit the UK in 2017 have had an enduring impact on attitudes towards Muslims in Britain. In our March 2018 YouGov poll, 18 per cent of people in our survey were more suspicious of British Muslims following the attacks. The child sexual exploitation scandals across the UK including the scandals in Rochdale, Rotherham, Oxford, and Telford have all added to tensions, and some media coverage of the events has offered a narrative which amalgamates a perceived failure of ‘integration’ with concerns about free speech or ‘PC culture’ and preferential treatment offered to migrants and minorities. Sixty per cent of our July 2018 YouGov poll felt that political correctness is causing the police and media to deliberately play down the ethnic background of some child sex offenders.

Narratives about Islam as a threat, ‘taking over’ UK cities, have moved from the margin to mainstream thought. In our July 2018 YouGov research of 10,383 people, a staggering 32 per cent of people believed that there are ‘no go’ areas in Britain where sharia law dominates and non-Muslims cannot enter, with almost half of all Leave voters (49 per cent) and Conservative voters (47 per cent) stating that this was true. Focus groups run by HOPE not hate across the country found that these narratives are most likely to take seed in post-industrial or coastal communities where participants professed a lost sense of community, of status and a decline in their wellbeing, and felt a decline in national identity linked to a changing way of life.

A public and political debate on integration which disproportionately holds the spotlight on Muslim communities feeds an underlying sense that integration failures are the responsibility of Muslims in Britain. Integration has become a concern that many have hung broader resentment around, a term that strings together different issues. It encapsulates cultural anxieties and a feeling of unfairness, of being left behind. It conflates economic with cultural concerns, grounded by the reality that integration has been an uneven success.

Mapping the drivers of hope and hate

Our Fear and Hope reports have consistently marked a shift in attitudes, but they have also marked a growing gulf between people in society with the most liberal outlooks and those with the most hostile attitudes. Our latest report set out to understand the drivers of fear and hate.

We are living in a time of ‘two Englands’ as Will Jennings puts it; of liberal, outward-looking, and cosmopolitan areas, and places with more hostile outlooks on life, where Euroscepticism flourishes, hostility to immigration prevails and people are anxious about cultural change, nostalgic for a rose-tinted past and are more English in their identity. The divide between cities and towns is growing even wider and the changing nature of work has replaced traditional industry with warehouses and service work. Graduates congregate in urban areas which celebrate diversity, while our towns age and many struggle to adapt to the pace of change.

Our work in the National Conversation on Immigration, together with British Future, revealed some stark differences in attitudes towards immigration between towns and core cities, areas which have prospered, and those which have seen decline. Our discussions were often about much more than immigration alone, but about broader dissatisfactions with people’s own lives.

We find the same patterns reinforced in our data. Based on six years of polling, answers from 43,000 people, and using the most modern forms of data analysis, our newest report maps political and cultural attitudes across the UK.

Data prepared by Populus models our Fear and HOPE data from February 2016 to show affinity to those with the hardest attitudes to immigration (the active enmity and latent hostile groups) and those with the most liberal attitudes, (the mainstream liberal and confident multicultural groups) by lower super output areas (approx. 1,000 houses) across England and Wales.

Analysis of this data, collated with data from the indices of multiple deprivation, suggests that where opportunities are greater and where people feel more in control of their own lives and optimistic about their successes, these communities become more resilient to hateful narratives and to political manifestations of hatred. The factors that influence social attitudes are hugely individualistic, but this data suggests that environmental factors also have a substantial role to play.

In our Fear and HOPE studies, the active enmity tribe holds the most hostile attitudes towards migrants and minorities and may even advocate for violence against these groups. The latent hostile group holds similar views, though to a lesser extent. The confident multicultural group holds the most positive views on immigration and multiculturalism, while the mainstream liberal group shares their views to a lesser extent.

We find the active enmity and latent hostile tribes are concentrated where there is high-level deprivation, especially around employment and education and skills in post-industrial and coastal towns, areas with predominantly white British populations. Conversely, the most liberal tribes are concentrated in core cities and near universities, where populations are generally younger, more diverse and highly educated. These are not the wealthiest areas, but they are places where there is opportunity.

Looking at all lower super output areas in the country, we find broad trends in where the most liberal and most hostile attitudes towards immigration and multiculturalism are concentrated. The areas where the most hostile attitudes are concentrated are also those where there is a greater degree of deprivation, while areas which do not indicate affinity to the active enmity and latent hostile groups are less likely to be within the 5,000 most deprived neighbourhoods in the country.

These trends are even more stark when looking at specific indicators of deprivation, such as education, training and skills or employment.

While aspects such as income deprivation or poor health are not in any way deterministic in predicting social values, there are clearly relations between the difficulties people face in their own lives, and an expression of these struggles through hate of others.

Of the 100 areas most closely affiliated to the active enmity and latent hostile groups, we find that most of these areas have an average of 95 per cent white British populations, with almost all in the 10 per cent most deprived areas of the country.

All are areas with low levels of employment, where residents are less educated and skilled than the majority of the population, and where many children are growing up in poverty. There are few opportunities in these places, and the lack of education, skills and disposable income make the poverty trap very difficult to escape. These are all areas where people are struggling to make ends meet, and opportunities are scarce.

By contrast, the 100 areas most closely affiliated to the confident multicultural and mainstream liberal groups are all located in core cities or prosperous university towns. As mostly urban areas, these are all places with opportunity, with all in the least deprived 20 per cent by income, and all have diverse populations, with an average white British population of 63 per cent. Notably, of the 100 places most closely affiliated to the confident multicultural tribe, more than 90 per cent are within a few hundred metres of universities and according to data from the indices of deprivation are among the most educated and skilled places in the country.

Applying the Centre for Towns’ place typology data, there are clear differences in the concentration of the hostile tribes, according to the size, demographics and socio-economic makeup of each conurbation. Hostile attitudes are most likely to be held by people in ex-industrial or coastal towns, while the most liberal attitudes are concentrated in inner London, and to a lesser extent in outer London and commuter towns.

The concentration of tribes according to the degree of deprivation felt in each place is clear. In relation to income, employment, education, skills and training, and health and wellbeing, when you map these the active enmity tribe is concentrated at the very bottom, in the most income deprived areas of the country, while the upper section– the least deprived areas of all of the country – is dominated by the more liberal tribes.

This analysis shows how resentment towards ethnic minorities, migrants and Muslims is often part and parcel of broader resentments in people’s lives, a sense of unfairness, and of something that has been lost or taken away. Issues are often merged in their articulation.

It is not that economics alone drive hostility towards others, but a sense of displacement and loss feeds anxieties, and speaks to pre-existing prejudice, as a sense of power and privilege slipping away fuels resentment. Globalisation has rapidly changed the structures that govern people’s lives, but immigration that has occurred alongside offers a tangible target for resentment. A sense of loss fuels fears among dominant groups of being ‘overtaken’, from a dislocation of social status and wellbeing for those who are white and British, who struggle to keep up with progressive social norms.

Political manifestations of hate

The lack of electoral success of the far right in the UK does not mean the threat has been eliminated. We have witnessed a growth in online activism headed by international far-right figureheads such as former English Defence League leader, Stephen Lennon, aka ‘Tommy Robinson’. The recent #FreeTommy campaign sparked the revival of a far-right street movement, with as many as 10,000 people coming out onto the streets of Westminster, more than double the size of any demonstration held by the EDL.

We mapped petitions in support of #FreeTommy, one of which racked up more than 630,000 signatures, and found, similarly to our attitudinal data showing concentrations of hostile attitudes, that the majority of UK signatures came from post-industrial or coastal towns, places with largely white British populations that have seen significant decline and long-term issues with unemployment and deprivation.

Political manifestations of hostile attitudes may have moved from the ballot box to, from local representatives to global figures, but environmental drivers still charge these sentiments and their political mobilisation. There is palpable anger and resentment across the country, most concentrated in communities which have consistently lost out to a redistribution of wealth to core cities or overseas. This anger opens the door to those offering hate as a simple answer to complex problems.

The challenge for Labour

Understanding the socioeconomic environment as a driver of social attitudes, our heat map data throws a challenge to Labour.

The 2017 election saw a swing in traditional voting patterns, as Labour’s strongest performance took hold in core cities, university towns, and among a demographic of younger, university educated city dwellers. The Conservatives saw gains in post-industrial areas: while Labour celebrated gains in Kensington and Canterbury, the Conservatives gained Mansfield, East Cleveland and Middlesbrough South. Many of the areas that swung in the Conservatives’ favour had previously moved from Labour to UKIP.

The collapse of UKIP left behind a key political target, particularly in Labour’s traditional heartlands. Typically swing voters driven by economic insecurity, Farage’s party had tapped into a sense, particularly in the North, that Labour was no longer representative of working class communities but part of the establishment, metropolitan and London-centric. Our 2017 Fear and HOPE survey found that just 7 per cent of this group turned to Labour in 2017. Fifteen per cent of people who voted UKIP in 2015 stayed with the party in 2017, half (49 per cent) unenthusiastically defected to the Conservatives who they saw as the ‘Brexit party’, and 24 per cent did not vote at all.

Our 2017  survey also found core differences in the values of Corbyn supporters and 2015 UKIP voters. While many 2015 UKIP voters would have economically and socially benefited from a Corbyn-led Government, on political and cultural issues the two sets of supporters were miles apart.

Our Fear, Hope and Loss report finds that Labour is a unifying force between the areas identified as housing the most hostile attitudes in the country, and the areas of the country where there is most support for immigration and multiculturalism. The similarity in political representation at a ward level is stark. Eighty six  per cent of the 500 areas which most reflect the active enmity tribe, and 72 per cent of the 500 areas most reflect the latent hostile tribe are in wards represented by Labour, while 63 per cent of the areas identifying most strongly with the confident multicultural tribe are also in Labour represented wards, in places like Manchester, London and Nottingham.

The disproportionate share of political representation by Labour in the most liberal areas of the country as well as the most hostile areas of the country shows the difficult bridge the Labour party must make if it is to hold on to its growing liberal, educated and tolerant base while appealing to its traditional, more socially conservative, working-class supporters. Moreover, as the party has shifted its focus to this new and growing liberal group, the loss of its heartlands poses even more of a threat.

Trust in the Labour party has dwindled in the party’s traditional heartlands, where many perceive a political elite that do not care to take their concerns seriously. Where we have identified frustration and resentment growing in response to loss and decline, the Labour party must work to provide a positive offer to avoid opening up space for a populist right which can tap into palpable anger. As our analysis shows, without a positive antidote and without offering a sense of hope, then anger, frustration, resentment and a lack of trust can easily convert into support for hate.

The full Fear, Hope and Loss report is available at

Rosie Carter

Rosie Carter is senior policy officer at HOPE not hate.


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