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Expert opinion from IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society


EU and me: why are British pensioners more likely to vote against open borders than their peers across the channel?

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 14 July 2017

Germ Janmaat. 
The popular revolt against open borders that swept across Great Britain and the United States last year has not, so far, crossed the Channel. In The Netherlands and France mainstream parties and candidates backing the EU and globalization more broadly won elections during the first half of 2017.
The media tried to explain this pattern, by pointing out that the link between age and support for “drawbridge up” parties was completely different in France. While the elderly voted for Brexit and Trump in the UK and the US, in France it was the young and middle aged groups that backed Le Pen, they said. The young, allegedly, turned to Le Pen in massive numbers because of high youth unemployment, job insecurity and lack of prospects.The unspoken conclusion was that young people in Britain and the US fare better, are more optimistic about the future and therefore saw no reason to rebel against mainstream parties.
However, if we take a close look at the data (more…)

Why higher levels of education don't necessarily mean higher levels of tolerance

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 19 December 2016

Jan Germen Janmaat*.

It’s often said that a person’s tolerance rises with their education level. So on this basis, the higher a person’s educational attainment is, the more likely they are to accept racial or ethnic minorities.
Studies often show that young people are also more welcoming in their attitudes to outsiders. This is thought to be largely because they have higher levels of education than older age groups.
So, you would expect that society as a whole becomes ever more tolerant and enlightened as new, better educated generations steadily replace older, less educated ones.
But recent political events suggest that this line of reasoning is too simple. Because how is it possible that anti-immigrant sentiments – as expressed in the Brexit vote and the (more…)

We must listen to young people's overwhelming vote to remain

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 28 June 2016

Germ Janmaat
Time and again the opinion polls of the last few weeks have shown that the vast majority of young people wanted Britain to stay in the EU. On the day of the vote 73% of the 18 to 24-year-olds said they had voted to remain (in contrast to the 60% of those aged over 65 saying they voted leave).
The young have good reasons to stay in. The EU not only offers them unlimited access to the job and housing markets of other member states, it also provides them with many opportunities to get a decent education at very little cost. Increasingly, universities on the mainland offer English-language BA and MA courses and proffer these at a fraction of the tuition fees of English universities. No wonder then that many British students are now studying in Europe. According to The Guardian, as many as a third of British students are considering overseas study.
The risk is that Brexit, depending on what it actually looks like in practice, shatters these (more…)

Russell Brand is wrong: young people should vote and schools should do more to encourage them

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 10 March 2015

Germ Janmaat
Britain has the dubious reputation of topping the league table on the generation gap in voting. In no other western country is the difference between old and young people so large. While only 44 per cent of people in their twenties turned out to vote in the 2010 elections, almost 80 per cent of pensioners did so. Obviously this is not good news for democracy. Politicians will not be inclined to pay much attention to the interests of young people as there are few votes to win among these groups. Consequently, government policy will become slanted in favour of older generations and other influential groups in society. This, in turn, might discourage the young from casting their vote still further.
Have young people’s low voting rates not alarmed politicians in Britain? Yes they have. In fact concern about declining (more…)

Research shows why anti-immigrant attitudes can fan the flames of ethnic intolerance

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 7 August 2013

Germ Janmaat

The row over Home Office vans telling illegal immigrants to “go home or face arrest” has once more put immigration in the spotlight. In the run up to the 2015 general election, the Tories will undoubtedly come up with more initiatives to show they are serious about curbing immigration and to take the wind out of UKIP’s sails.
They have every reason to be concerned about immigration dominating the campaign. Public opinion on the issue has become more restrictive in recent years. For instance, 75% of respondents to the 2012 British Social Attitudes Survey wanted a reduction in immigration while only 63% felt the same in 1995.
People also have more negative expectations. In 2002 just 43% thought that immigration would have negative economic effects and only 33% believed it had negative cultural effects. By 2012 these percentages had risen to 52% and 48% respectively. So it may not be surprising that there is also more opposition to immigration in the UK than in comparable countries. The UK has not only the highest number of respondents saying that there are too many immigrants (58%), but also the highest number believing that immigration presents more of a problem than an opportunity (68%) (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

These attitudes would not matter too much if people did not see immigration as an important issue – but they do. More people in Britain than in comparable countries say immigration will influence their vote “a lot” (27%) and as many as 17% think it is “the most important problem” (see Figure 2). It is an issue no party can afford to ignore.
Figure 2
Negative attitudes on immigration always spark concern among scholars and policy makers because they are seen as a symptom of a much wider complex of exclusionary and racist attitudes to minority ethnic groups as a whole, including people born in Britain.
If this assumption is correct, there is certainly reason for apprehension. The key question is whether anti-immigration attitudes reflect intolerance more generally. Data collected in 2011-12 by LLAKES researchers among more than 500 14 to 20-year-olds in greater London provide some preliminary answers. We can see that young people’s attitudes on immigrants mirror those of the adult population (see Table 1). There are, for instance, slightly more people who agree that immigrants increase crime rates than those who disagree. Likewise, considerably more people agree that immigrants take jobs away from the native population than disagree. The number agreeing that immigrants are good for the UK’s economy is also smaller than the number disagreeing.
Yet, these rather unfavourable attitudes appear not be indicative of racially intolerant and exclusionary views more generally. Overwhelming majorities agree with the idea of equal opportunities in employment and education for all ethnic groups. Similarly, almost nobody objects to mixed race marriage or to having people of a different race as neighbours or colleagues. These figures would lead one to think that anti-immigrant attitudes are not necessarily part of a wider syndrome of intolerance and ethnocentrism.
Table 1. Attitudes on immigrants, race and ethnic groups

%disagree and strongly disagree % agree and strongly agree
Immigrants are generally good for the UK’s economy 33.1 29.9
Immigrants take jobs away from people who were born in the UK 26.2 52.2
Immigrants increase crime rates 33.8 34.7
All ethnic groups should have equal chances to get good jobs in this country 74.9
All ethnic groups should have equal chances to get a good education in the UK 81.2
Mixed race marriage is ok 86.1
I wouldn’t mind working with people from other races 88.8
I wouldn’t mind if a family of a different race moved next door 84.1

Unfortunately, this is a premature conclusion. We also need to study correlations between unfavourable views on immigrants and wider exclusionary attitudes. Analysis of these correlations shows that there are, in fact, strong relationships between these sets of attitudes and that they are all in the expected direction. All but two of the fifteen correlations between the three questions on immigrants and the five questions on racial tolerance and ethnocentrism are significant at the .001 level, indicating very strong relationships (these results can be obtained from the author upon request). Reliability analysis, moreover, shows that all these attitudes are so well correlated that they form one coherent complex of attitudes (with an alpha value of 0.84), a complex we may label as “ethnic tolerance”.
So, although levels of racial intolerance and ethnocentrism are low in comparison to unfavourable attitudes towards immigrants, the latter do appear to be strongly related to the former. Their interconnectedness means that politicians and opinion-makers have to act responsibly in discussing immigration. Any unfounded negative statements on immigrants and immigration may not only make people more negatively disposed towards immigrants but also fan the flames of ethnic hatred in general.

The French election – 60,000 teachers can't be wrong

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 17 May 2012

Germ Janmaat
In this month’s presidential elections France elected a socialist, François Hollande. According to The Economist and many other western media the country is now heading for financial meltdown. His election programme, if carried out, is said to represent a lethal cocktail of policies that will shatter the trust of the financial markets. If we are to believe these sources, M Hollande promised the French electorate to renounce the Eurozone austerity treaty, to lower the pension age by two years and to dramatically increase taxes for the rich.
A closer scrutiny of his promises, however, shows that he has no intention of challenging the existing budgetary rules of the treaty. He does want to add a growth and investment component to it. As to the pensions, he promised to lower the pension age only for those who have worked for 40 years or more. Regarding the taxes, he proposed  a 75% band for earnings over 1 million euros and a Tobin tax on large corporations and banks.
Why this deliberate misrepresentation of his campaign promises? Probably because it is the Pavlovian reaction of media that have become unaccustomed to the idea of a politician proposing a classical Keynesian recipe to overcome the economic crisis. Over the last two decades the neoliberal rhetoric of competitiveness and lean-and-mean government has become so powerful that any real alternative is immediately branded as completely out of order.
Yet it’s worth seeing things in perspective. Not only are there scores of economists who argue that the eurozone countries cannot work themselves out of the crisis with austerity measures alone, but even David Cameron and IMF managing director Christine Lagarde have recognised that a stimulus component is needed. Moreover, reality does not exactly comply with the easy assumption that competitiveness depends on small government. The Scandinavian countries and Germany, for instance, combine high levels of social spending with good performance on key indicators of competitiveness, such as innovation, unemployment and inflation.
But perhaps most important is the message of hope M Hollande extends to the young generation – 60,000 extra teachers and an increase in the minimum wage. These policies at least go some way towards alleviating the plight of the young. Let us not forget that it is precisely the young who are most affected by the current economic crisis. Everywhere youth unemployment is reaching record levels. Never before has it been so difficult for first time buyers to take their first step onto the property ladder.
Research from the IOE’s ESRC-funded Llakes Centre has shown that young people’s sharply diminished life chances in the current age of austerity are damaging social cohesion and affecting young people’s attitudes towards democratic processes. Does it mean that many youngsters have turned their backs on liberal democracy altogether? Or does it represent a temporary loss of faith that can easily be restored when economic conditions improve? What can education do to rebuild trust and engagement? These are key questions informing LLAKES research for the time to come.