LONDON — Brits are now far more worried about the state of the economy than they are about immigration, despite the movement of people being the defining issue of the Brexit vote.
According to the latest Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions, the economy is now viewed as the most important issue affecting confidence in Britain, surpassing both immigration and the threat of terrorism in the fourth quarter of 2016.
Asked to provide their top two concerns for the country, 28% of Brits surveyed by Nielsen named the economy, while only 20% mentioned terrorism and immigration as their biggest worry.
Compared to the previous quarter, the economy as an answer increased by 12%, while terrorism fell 12%, and immigration dropped by 2%.
The data provides an interesting look into the shift in public perception seen since Brits voted to leave the European Union on June 23 last year. Immigration was far and away the most important issue for those voting for Brexit, multiple polls showed, while the economy was of little concern.
However, now that Britain has voted to leave, and the economic realities of leaving the world’s biggest common market, the European Single Market, have dawned on the average Brit, the health of the British economy is now in sharp focus.
Although all but the most pessimistic economists have cancelled their predictions of a Brexit-driven recession, virtually every single forecast still sees the economy growing by less than predicted before the vote in the coming years.
At the release of its most recent Inflation Report, the Bank of England said that it believes growth will slow as Brexit negotiations begin, predicting GDP growth of 1.6% in 2018 and 1.7% in 2019. Pre-referendum both figures were well above 2%.
Immigration’s fall as a concern for Nielsen’s survey participants may reflect increasing confidence in the British government to police who comes into the country, following Prime Minister Theresa May’s confirmation that Britain will leave the single market, allowing it to take full control of immigration, and ending the free movement of people from other EU nations.
Commenting on the firm’s findings, Steve Smith, Nielsen’s managing director for the UK and Ireland said: “As the political and economic planning for Brexit gets underway, concerns about jobs leaving the UK have unsettled consumers, as did the US election.”