The MORI research, commissioned by Oxfam and the Refugee Council, found that 55 per cent of those questioned identified persecution, torture and escaping from the authorities as likely reasons for a refugee's flight.
Fewer than one in four of the nearly 2,000 people polled across Britain thought that refugees came here to escape poverty in their homelands.
The survey are published today as the Refugee Council launches a report, Credit to the Nation, highlighting the economic and cultural contribution of refugees to Britain.
Council chief executive Nick Hardwick said: "The MORI survey shows many people realise refugees are coming here to seek safety from persecution and not for economic reasons.
"It is wrong to portray refugees as scroungers seeking a better life - in fact they have enriched our country both economically and culturally over the centuries."Reuse content