Since the Taliban seized power in Kabul on 15 August, more than 50,000 Afghans and foreigners have fled Afghanistan, many of whom are seeking asylum and resettlement in countries around the world. In light of the developing situation, the UK Government has announced plans to accept 20,000 Afghan refugees in the coming years. Here at Redfield & Wilton Strategies, we polled the British public for their views on the Government’s response to the growing number of Afghans fleeing the nation, including whether 5,000 refugees is the right number of people to take in over the next year.
Our research finds that a plurality of 47% of Britons support the UK Government’s decision to take in 20,000 Afghan refugees in the coming years, including 5,000 within the next year. However, a notable quarter (26%) oppose this decision, and 19% neither support nor oppose it.
Majorities of those aged 18 to 24 (57%) and 25 to 34 (54%) support the Government’s plan to admit 20,000 Afghan refugees, as do 53% of those aged 65 and above. Support for the Government’s decision is somewhat lower among 35-to-44-year-olds (42%), 45-to-54-year-olds (37%), and 55-to-64-year-olds (42%), although it still remains the plurality position among these age groups.
Meanwhile, 40% of those who voted Conservative in 2019 support the Government’s decision on admitting Afghan refugees, compared to 35% of this demographic who oppose it—9 points higher than the general public. Those who voted Labour in 2019 are far more in favour, with 60% in support and only 16% opposed, representing a rare example of a Conservative Government policy that is much more popular with voters of the opposition than those of its own party.
With respect to the UK Government’s decision to admit 5,000 Afghan refugees in the next year, we find that 22% think this is the right amount. Almost a third (31%) of Britons think that admitting 5,000 Afghan refugees within the next year is too many, and 23% think it is too few. A further 23% are unsure.
The opinion that admitting 5,000 refugees is too many mostly increases with age, ranging from 21% of 18-to-24-year-olds to 40% of 55-to-64-year-olds. However, we yet again find that the views of those aged 65 and above differ from those of other older respondents, with 28% saying 5,000 refugees is too many. On the other hand, respondents aged 18 to 24 are the most likely to think that 5,000 is too few (32%) or the right amount (28%).
The partisan divergence continues in this regard as well, with 42% of those who voted Conservative in 2019 saying that taking in 5,000 Afghan refugees over the next year is too many, an opinion shared by just 23% of 2019 Labour voters. In turn, Labour voters (34%) are much more likely than 2019 Conservative voters (15%) to say that 5,000 is too few, while equal proportions of 25% of both groups say that 5,000 is about the right number of refugees to admit.
Despite disagreement about the number of Afghan refugees to be resettled, a strong majority of 59% of Britons would support the UK Government granting asylum to all Afghan citizens who worked with the British military. Just 14% overall would oppose such an arrangement and 18% would neither support nor oppose it.
Respondents aged 65 and above show the strongest support for this idea, with 70% of this demographic saying they would support the UK granting asylum to all Afghan citizens who worked with the British military. All other age groups also show majority support except 45-to-54-year-olds, of whom a significant plurality of 46% nevertheless say they would be in support.
Though to varying degrees, majorities of both those who voted Conservative (54%) and those who voted Labour (66%) in 2019 would support the Government granting asylum to all Afghan citizens who worked with the British military, indicating the popularity of this potential measure across the political spectrum.
Ultimately, Britons appear broadly supportive of the Government’s decision to admit 20,000 refugees over the next five years, although a plurality of the public thinks that 5,000 refugees in the next year is too many. Opposition appears to be largely driven by older respondents—with the notable exception of those aged 65 and above—and those who voted Conservative in 2019. However, a clear majority of Britons would support the Government granting asylum to all Afghan citizens that worked with the British military, suggesting that if the Government implements such a policy, it will enjoy widespread cross-party support.