What do Britons think about the media’s portrayal of immigration and asylum seekers?

June 18, 2021, 2:32 PM UTC

With concerns about immigration and asylum increasing in the public consciousness, a new YouGov study looks at what Britons think of the way the media covers the issue.

The results show a nation divided. A quarter (25%) say the media cover the issue of immigration and asylum too much, while 22% say too little and 31% say about right. The remaining 21% aren’t sure.

Conservative voters are more likely to think there is not enough coverage than too much (28% vs 21%), while Labour voters take the opposite view, with 31% thinking it’s too widely reported compared to 18% saying the press should give it more attention.

This could suggest that Labour voters don’t see this topic as such an important ‘issue’ to be reported on, and therefore deem its presence in the media ‘too much’. Indeed, our tracker of what Britons consider to be the top issues facing the country shows that just 9% of Labour voters put ‘immigration and asylum’ in their top three issues, compared to as many as 48% of Conservative voters.

Britons tend to see reporting on immigration and asylum matters as negative and inaccurate

Britons tend to think that the media generally portray immigration in a negative way – 57% say so of newspapers and 45% of the broadcast media. Only 8% of respondents say newspapers cover immigration and asylum seekers in a positive way overall, with 11% saying the same for broadcast media. Broadcast media reports on the issue are more likely to be considered neutral (23%) than those in the newspaper media (18%).

Conservatives are much less likely than Labour voters to think both types of media report negatively on the issue, although it is still the most commonly held view among Tories. There are little differences found across age groups, but men are more likely than women to think both media portray immigrants and asylum seekers positively.

While Britons tend to think the media coverage of immigration and asylum is negative, do they at least think it is accurate? The answer is no: people tend to think both types of media report inaccurately on the subject, with newspaper reporting seen as inaccurate by more Britons (51%) than broadcast media (44%). Men are slightly more trusting of both types of media outlets, as are older Britons compared to their younger peers.

Labour voters are more likely than their Conservative counterparts to say both types of media outlet report inaccurately: 40% of Conservative voters and 55% of Labour voters say broadcast media report inaccurately, while 44% of Conservative voters think newspapers report accurately compared to just 58% of Labour voters.

Among those who think the media inaccurately covers immigration and asylum issues, in what ways do they think the reporting is inaccurate? For both broadcasters and newspapers, the most common answer is that reports are generally biased against immigrants and asylum seekers. Half (50%) of those who accuse the newspaper media of inaccurate reporting made this claim, as did 40% who consider broadcast reporting inaccurate.

The second most common answer for both broadcast and newspaper media was that they misrepresent the reasons people immigrate and seek asylum, at 40% and 37% respectively. The third most common answer, again for both types of media, is that they suggest that immigrants and asylum seekers receive more support than they do.

The results also show that people who think media reports are inaccurate are more likely to accuse broadcast media of being biased in favour of immigrants and asylum seekers (21%) than newspapers (15%).

See full results here