WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Although the United Kingdom is one of the top desired destinations for would-be migrants around the world, Gallup surveys in 2010 show one in three Britons say they would like to leave their country permanently if they had the opportunity. Britons, in fact, are among the most likely in the European Union to say they would like to move, sharing the top spot with Romanians.
Britons' relatively high level of desire to migrate permanently cannot be attributed to the recent global economic crisis or the country's own recession. The 33% who say they would like to move is the same now, as the United Kingdom emerges from its longest recession on record, as when it entered recession in 2008. This trend is similar to what Gallup observes worldwide: With some exceptions, people's expressed desire to migrate did not decrease meaningfully in the downturn.
The profile of the United Kingdom's potential migrants has not changed much either during that time. Like others worldwide, younger, working-age Britons and those with secondary or higher education are the most likely to say they would like to migrate. One in three or more with secondary educations (33%) or the equivalent of a bachelor's degree or higher education (36%) say they would like to move if they had the chance.
Britons are most likely to want to relocate to Australia, Spain, the United States, and Canada. But before these countries start bracing for an influx of Britons or British businesses fret about losing their workforce, it's important to qualify that Gallup's findings reflect desire rather than intent or a migration rate. Among Britons who say they would like to migrate, 2% say they are planning to move in the next 12 months. This percentage is much lower than in many other places in the European Union.
Britons' relatively high level of desire to migrate, however, suggests an underlying malaise among a sizable portion of the population. A closer look at those who would like to go reveals dissatisfaction with not only economic conditions, but also with conditions in local communities. Those who say they would like to migrate, for example, are more likely to be dissatisfied with their communities as places to live in general and with aspects of their local infrastructure such as the quality of the local schools and their roads and highways. They are also less likely to approve of their local leadership and trust their local police.
The daily well-being of Britons who express a desire to leave their country also tends to be slightly worse than that of those who would like to stay. Would-be migrants are more likely to report experiencing a lot of stress, worry, and anger the day before the survey, and are less likely to report experiencing a lot of enjoyment, feeling well-rested, or having the opportunity to learn something interesting.
The International Organization for Migration estimates that there were 214 million international migrants worldwide in 2010. The United Kingdom finds itself in a situation that many around the world do, with their young people and their educated the most likely to want to migrate. As Britons struggle to find solutions that keep the talent they need at home, Gallup data suggest some of the work will need to start in communities with leaders doing more to increase individual day-to-day well-being.
For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact SocialandEconomicAnalysis@gallup.com or call 202.715.3030.
Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted between May and August 2010 in the countries referenced in this article. For results based on the total sample of national adults in the United Kingdom, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3.7 percentage points. For results based on the total sample of national adults in all countries surveyed, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranged from a low of ± 3.5 percentage points to a high of ±4.0 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.