Attitudes towards what makes someone ‘truly British’ are hardening, according to the latest British Social Attitudes report.
The poll, which is carried out each year, found that migrants to the UK must master English if they want to be considered British. The percentage of people who believe someone cannot be truly British unless they can speak English has increased from 86 per cent in 2003 to 95 per cent in 2013.
More than six in 10 also said they believed migrants from EU nations should have to wait for three years before they could claim welfare payments in the UK. Nearly a quarter said they thought that the UK’s benefits system was one of key reasons why immigration to the UK is so high.
Meanwhile, fewer people said they thought legal immigrants should have the same rights as British citizens. The number fell from four in 10 in 2003 to fewer than three in 10 this year.
People in London were more likely to believe that immigration benefits the economy, with more than half (54 per cent) supporting this view, compared to 28 per cent in the rest of the UK. And 43 per cent said they believed that immigrants are responsible for a higher crime rates in the UK, up from 37 per cent a decade ago.
The annual survey has been carried out by the NatCen Social Research Centre for more than three decades and the latest results are based on responses from more than 3,000 people around the UK.
Spokeswoman Penny Young told the BBC: “In an increasingly diverse, multi-cultural country, we might expect people to be more relaxed about what it means to be British, yet the trend is going in the opposite direction.”