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A new survey shows negativity towards migration has dropped in Britain

Almost half of Brits now think migrants are good for the economy

London CNN  — 

Brits are warming up to immigrants.

The number of people in the United Kingdom who say that migrants are good for the economy has risen sharply to 47%, according to the British Social Attitudes survey. Just over a third of Brits said the same in 2015, and only 21% in 2013.

The results suggest that attitudes toward immigrants have softened since the 2016 Brexit vote, which the official Vote Leave campaign framed as an opportunity to reduce the number of migrants coming to Britain from the European Union.

According to a survey published last year by YouGov, a desire to limit migration was the top reason Brits voted for Brexit.

A report that accompanied the British Social Attitudes survey, which was conducted by the independent social researcher NatCen, argued that the political debate may have changed some minds.

“There is little sign here that the EU referendum campaign served to make Britain less tolerant towards migrants; rather they have apparently come to be valued to a degree that was not in evidence before the referendum campaign,” researchers said.

Heather Rolfe, a researcher at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, said that the debate “has tended to emphasize the economic contribution of migrants in a way it wasn’t before.”

Economists have long argued that migrants tend to contribute more to the British economy than they take out. With unemployment at its lowest level in decades, and companies struggling to find workers, they’re now needed urgently.

“There is a growing realization that sectors such as health and social care need skilled migrants and that low-skilled migrants are needed in sectors like agriculture and hospitality,” Rolfe said. “It also reflects a small increase in concern that Brexit is bad for the economy.”

Attitudes toward immigration also shifted on another front: The survey showed that 44% of Brits think immigration has a positive impact on cultural life, up from from 31% in 2015.

Related: Why Britain needs the immigrants it doesn’t want

Data from the UK Office for National Statistics show that more Europeans are coming to the United Kingdom than leaving, but the gap has narrowed.

Net migration from the European Union dropped to 90,000 in the year to September 2017, according to the latest available data. Net migration was 189,000 in the year leading up to the Brexit vote.