Opinion Poll Results on Immigration

Opinion Polls 15.1

Public opinion is firmly behind the government’s efforts to reduce net migration. The public recognise the benefits of controlled immigration especially in particular fields but, for many years, have shown strong opposition to mass immigration and have long wished to see net migration reduced to more sensible levels. Below is a summary of public opinion poll results on immigration and its impacts on the economy and society arranged under the following headings:

  1. Positive aspects
  2. On whether Immigration is a Problem
  3. On Current Levels of Immigration
  4. On Concern about Immigration
  5. On Prefferred levels of Immigration
  6. On Government Policy
  7. On Population and Overcrowding
  8. On the General Impact
  9. On the Impact on Public Services
  10. On the Impact of Jobs
  11. On the Integration of Migrants
  12. On Illegals
  13. On Community Cohesion

1. Positive aspects

Britain is a welcoming and tolerant country with a long and remarkably stable history; there is therefore a lot to be optimistic about. Were the government to reduce net migration to sustainable levels then it is likely that concern about immigration would reduce substantially. Concern about immigration was low when Labour came to power in 1997 and only increased as the numbers grew to unsustainable levels.

Polling has shown that while only 9% of people favoured continuing to admit the same number of migrants that we do today just 12% favoured ending all immigration.

(YouGov, May 2013, http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/oyzet5g2cf/YG-Archive-Migration-Matters-results-100513-Office-of%20Budget-Responsibility.pdf)

70% said that they were interested in foods from different regions and cultures when preparing meals at home. This compares to a global average of 45% and a European average of 50%.

(IPSOS for Global Advisor, survey of 24 countries, June 2012, http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2972/Global-dvisor-Survey-reveals-negative-attitudes-to-immigration.aspx )

55% believe that international students have a positive effect on Britain. Though 45% of respondents thought that British workers should always be prioritised over foreigners, even if they were less well qualified, 47% disagreed.

(YouGov, March 2013 http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/3c9vhdqg0k/YG-Archive-immigration-260313.pdf)

53% of respondents thought that a variety of cultures and backgrounds had strengthened the UK.

(YouGov for Lord Ashcroft Polls, April 2013 http://lordashcroftpolls.com/2013/04/45-years-on-do-ethnic-minorities-remember-rivers-of-blood/)

When thinking about issues of identity and what it means to be British, being born in the UK is not regarded as the most important aspect. 59% of people think that to put being British first is the most important aspect of being British, ahead of being born here, having citizenship or supporting British sporting teams.

(Searchlight, February 2011, http://www.fearandhope.org.uk/project-report/)

There are also a number of specific fields in which the contribution of immigrants is widely appreciated but none of them require large scale immigration.

68% believe that immigration has had a positive effect on food and restaurants; 8% negative
47% believe that immigration has had a positive effect on Entrepreneurs, start ups; 11% negative
38% believe that immigration has had a positive effect on Premier League football; 13% negative
36% believe that immigration has had a positive effect on Film and music; 7% negative
32% believe that immigration has had a positive effect on Art and literature; 6% negative
25% believe that immigration has had a positive effect on TV, radio and press; 14% negative

(IPSOS MORI for British Future December 2011, URL: http://www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Polls/state-of-the-nation-2011-british-future-topline.pdf)

The massive increase in foreign immigration since 1997, totalling nearly 3.5 million has had a very substantial impact on public opinion as the following polls indicate.

2. On whether Immigration is a Problem…

In 1997, only around 5% thought that immigration was the main (or other) issue facing Britain today

Just nine years later in 2006, that figure hit 40% and by June 2013, the figure was 58%.

(Searchlight, February 2011, http://www.fearandhope.org.uk/project-report/)

In the last two years immigration and race relations have been placed in the top 2 issues that are facing Britain almost every month.

(YouGov, Opinion Poll archive, http://yougov.co.uk/publicopinion/archive/?page=1)

(YouGov, June 2013, http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/cxvsvxeo4n/YG-Archive-Pol-Sun-results-040613.pdf)

60% believe that on the whole, immigration had been a bad thing for the country

(Searchlight, February 2011, http://www.fearandhope.org.uk/project-report/)

74% believe that immigration is either a very big or a fairly big problem

(Ipsos Mori, February 2011, URL: http://www.ipsos-mori.com/newsevents/latestnews/644/Strong-support-for-a-cap-on-immigration-amidst-economic-concern.aspx)

Only 12% believe that immigration has changed their local community for the better. Approximately 12% of the population are non-UK born.

(Searchlight, February 2011, http://www.fearandhope.org.uk/project-report/, and Annual Population Survey, April 2010 to March 2011, Table 1.1, URL: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-235204)

3. On Current Levels of Immigration…

69% of respondents thought immigration had a negative effect on the UK. 72% wanted to decrease the number of legal immigrants who are allowed to relocate to the UK. 58% thought that illegal immigrants take jobs away from UK workers and 61% wanted them deported. Only 20% wanted a system which would allow illegal immigrants to work in the UK on a temporary basis, but without becoming citizens.

(Angus Reid December 2011, http://www.angus-reid.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/table_immigrationuk_2011.pdf)

People in the UK are among the most negative in Europe about immigration. 64% of respondents said that immigration had been generally or fairly negative for the country. This compares with 72% of people in Belgium who were negative about immigration, 56% in Italy, 55% in Spain, 54% in France, 54% in Germany, 52% in Hungary, 37% in Sweden and 32% in Poland.

71% of respondents said that there were too many immigrants in the country. This was second only to Belgium, where 72% said there were too many immigrants. 67% of respondents in Spain, 67% of Italians, 53% of Germans, 52% of French, 50% of Hungarians, 46% of Swedes and 29% of Poles thought there were too many immigrants in their countries.

(IPSOS for Global Advisor, survey of 24 countries, June 2012, http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2972/Global-dvisor-Survey-reveals-negative-attitudes-to-immigration.aspx )

Asked whether immigration from Western Europe had a positive effect on the UK 39% thought that it had. This contrasts with only 22% who thought that immigration from Eastern Europe was positive. 70% thought that immigration rules governing migration from Europe weren’t strict enough, while 73% thought immigration rules from outside the EU weren’t tough enough.

(YouGov for The Sunday Times, February 2013, http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/22ok7iz5ea/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-15-170213.pdf)

71% believe that there are too many immigrants in the UK

(Ipsos Global Advisor Poll, August 2011, URL: http://www.slideshare.net/IpsosMORI/ipsos-global-dvisor-22-attitudes-to-immigration-july-2011)

64% agreed with the statement that there were too many immigrants in Britain

(Ipsos Mori, February 2011, URL: http://www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/News/asylumpolldfeb11topline.PDF)

Over 75% of respondents said, in response to four surveys over a two year period, that they would like to see immigration reduced

(DCLG, 2008-2010, URL: http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/statistics/pdf/1886779.pdf)

These are not recently expressed views. The British people have been expressing their disapproval of large scale immigration for many years now.

In 2007, 68% (45% strongly) believed that too many immigrants were coming into Britain

(YouGov for Migration Watch UK, January 2007, URL: http://www.migrationwatchuk.org/pdfs/10._17_RESULTSforMW_Immigration_5th_8thJan.pdf)

In 2006, 75% (47% strongly) believed that too many immigrants were coming to Britain

(YouGov for Migration Watch UK, June 2006, URL: http://cdn.yougov.com/today_uk_import/YG-Archives-pol-migrationw-ImmigrationAtt-060705_0.pdf)

In 2005, 60% of Asian community think there are too many immigrants in Britain

(BBC Asian Network, April 2005, URL: http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2005/04_april/29/asian_poll.shtml)

In 2004, 74% believed that there were too many immigrants coming to Britain

(YouGov for The Economist, December 2004, URL: http://www.yougov.co.uk/extranets/ygarchives/content/pdf/OMI040101093_1.pdf)

4. On Concern about Immigration…

In January 2014 the monthly Ipsos MORI 'Issues Index' poll found that immigration is now on a par with the economy as the most important issue facing the country, having previously been the second most important issue.

(Ipsos MORI for The Economist, January 2014, http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/.../EconomistIpsos-MORI-January-2014-Issues-Index.aspx)

In May 2013, 34% of respondents said that immigration/race was the most important issue facing Britain today. This represents a significant year on year increase from May 2012, when 20% listed it as the most important issue facing Britain. (IPSOS Mori, May 2013, http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3181/EconomistIpsos-MORI-May-2013-Issues-Index.aspx)

79% are concerned about the issue of immigration

(YouGov for Migration Watch UK, May 2009, URL: http://tinyurl.com/7qrf2gf )

Immigration was featured in the Top 3 of issues of concern to British people in 20 out of the last 24 months

(Ipsos Mori Issues Index, January 2010 – December 2011, URL: http://www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Polls/Dec11issuesindexslides2.pdf

5. On Preferred Levels of Immigration…

36% of respondents favoured an annual immigration cap, while an additional 53% agreed with a cap and a five year moratorium on all migration into the UK. (ICM, March 2013, http://www.icmresearch.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2013/03/Wisdom-mar13.pdf)

79% think that transitional controls on Romania and Bulgaria should be maintained after 1 January 2014. (ComRes, January 2013, http://www.comres.co.uk/polls/Get_Britain_Out_EU_Referendum_25_Jan_2013.pdf)

69% of British people wanted EU immigration rules made harder and 73%

73% wanted it to be harder for non-EU migrants to come to the UK.

(YouGov, June 2013 http://yougov.co.uk/news/2013/06/04/beyond-woolwich-british-attitudes-integration/)

72% believe that the number of legal immigrants allowed to relocate to the UK should decrease

(Angus Reid, December 2011, URL: http://www.angus-reid.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/2011.12.20_Immigration_BRI.pdf)

69% believe that the number of immigrants coming to the UK should be reduced

(Ipsos Mori for Migration Observatory, September 2011, URL: http://www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Polls/understanding-immigration-topline-ipsos-mori-september-2011.pdf)

79% believe that net migration of 100,000 or less would be best for Britain

(YouGov for Migration Watch UK, May 2011, URL: http://tinyurl.com/7vlcwwt)

80% of business leaders agree that there should be a limit on the number of migrants from outside the EU entering the UK each year

(Institute of Directors, February 2007, URL: http://www.iod.com/MainWebsite/Resources/Document/policy_paper_immigration_business_perspective.pdf)

For many years now, the British public have expressed their desire for lower levels of immigration.

83% agreed that there must be an annual limit to the numbers of immigrants allowed to come to Britain

(YouGov for Migration Watch UK, January 2007, URL: : http://tinyurl.com/7fq7msb)

Working-class voters divide by a margin of 67% to 26% in favour of a ban on all immigration. Middle class voters divide almost evenly against a ban by a margin of 49% to 46%.

When asked to choose the two policies from a list of seven that they would most like to see implemented, 53% of working class voters chose ‘stopping ALL immigration’ over any other policy, while 32% of middle class voters did.

(YouGov for Progress, October 2012, http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/.../e486jk8w3t/121004-progress-results.pdf)

6. On Government Policy…

76% of respondents agreed that Ed Miliband is right to accept that the last Labour Government made major mistakes on immigration.

(ComRes for The Independent on Sunday, August 2013, http://www.comres.co.uk/polls/SM_IoS_Political_Poll_August_2013.pdf, page 70.)

The Government recently announced a raft of measures designed to reduce the incentives to migrate to the UK. These policies enjoy widespread public support.

70% support only allowing European migrants to claim job seekers allowance for more than six months if they have a “realistic prospect” of finding work. 78% agree that the Government should do more to make sure foreign nationals pay to use the NHS and 81% support not allowing people to join the council house waiting list until they have been in Britain for two years. In addition, 81% support fining landlords who rent homes to illegal immigrants and 86% support increasing fines for companies that employ illegal immigrants.

86% said that they would support a law that meant EU migrants would only have access to benefits after a certain amount of time. 75% said that they’d support changing the law so that only those who’d been resident in the UK for a fixed period would have access to emergency NHS treatment.

(YouGov, March 2013, http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/3c9vhdqg0k/YG-Archive-immigration-260313.pdf)

The government has a clear immigration policy of reducing net migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands by the end of this Parliament. There is a high level of support for this policy, including from Liberal Democrat voters.

78% support the government’s aim to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands, including 70% of those who voted Liberal Democrat in the 2010 General Election.

(YouGov for The Sunday Times, January 2012, URL: http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/d51j2t3jzl/YG-Archives-Pol-ST-results-06-080112.pdf)

82% support the government’s policy to introduce a limit on the number of economic migrants from outside the EU, including 78% of those who voted Liberal Democrat in the 2010 General Election.

(YouGov for Migration Watch UK, May 2011, URL: http://tinyurl.com/7vlcwwt)

7. On Population and Overcrowding…

94% agreed that Britain is ‘full up’.

(BBC One Sunday Morning Live Poll, November 2011)

79% of people in England believe that England is overcrowded, 37% saying it is very crowded. 85% of Londoners think that England is overcrowded. 76% are concerned that the population will increase to 70 million in 16 years and 69% support a net migration level of 40,000 per year to keep the population below 70 million

(Ipsos Mori for Migration Watch UK, November 2011, URL: http://migrationwatchuk.com/excel/yougov-071111.xls)

79% believe that the UK population is too high.

(YouGov for Population Matters, May 2011, URL: http://populationmatters.org/2011/news/people-uk-population-high/?phpMyAdmin=e11b8b687c20198d9ad050fbb1aa7f2f)

85% feel slightly or very worried at the projected rise in population to 70 million

(YouGov for Migration Watch UK, January 2010, URL: http://www.yougov.co.uk/extranets/ygarchives/content/pdf/MigrationWatch-marginal_Jan10.pdf)

Concern about Population level and overcrowding is not a new issue either.

In 2007, 76% agreed that Britain was overcrowded

(YouGov for Migration Watch UK, January 2007, URL: http://tinyurl.com/7fq7msb)

In 2003, 76% agreed that Britain was ‘already overcrowded’

(YouGov for The Sun, August 2003, URL: http://cdn.yougov.com/today_uk_import/YG-Archives-lif-sun-ImmiAsylum-030818.pdf

8. On the General Impact…

58% of respondents disagreed that it was a good thing that people from the rest of the EU are encouraged to come and work in the UK.

(ComRes for the Independent on Sunday, August 2013, http://www.comres.co.uk/polls/SM_IoS_Political_Poll_August_2013.pdf, page 78.)

22% believe that a majority of immigrants contribute positively to Britain, 21% think that around half do and 42% think only a minority do.

(YouGov March 2013, http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/6ermykkegf/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-08-100313.pdf)

68% believe that immigration has a negative effect on Britain

(YouGov for The Sunday Times, January 2012, URL: http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/d51j2t3jzl/YG-Archives-Pol-ST-results-06-080112.pdf)

69% believe that immigration is having a negative effect on the UK

(Angus Reid, December 2011, URL: http://www.angus-reid.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/2011.12.20_Immigration_BRI.pdf)

40% believe that there is no benefit in immigration

(YouGov for The Sunday Times, April 2011, URL: http://cdn.yougov.com/today_uk_import/yg-archives-pol-st-results-05-170411.pdf)

59% believe that on balance, recent immigration has been bad for British society as a whole.

(YouGov for Migration Watch UK, January 2010, URL: http://www.yougov.co.uk/extranets/ygarchives/content/pdf/MigrationWatch-marginal_Jan10.pdf)

9. On the Impact on Public Services…

69% believe that immigration has had a negative impact on the availability of housing

(Ipsos Mori for British Future, December 2011, URL: http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2901/British-Future-State-of-the-Nation-Poll.aspx, http://www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Polls/state-of-the-nation-2011-british-future-topline.pdf)

76% believe that immigration has placed too much pressure on public services including health, transport and education

(Ipsos Global Advisor Poll, August 2011, URL: http://www.slideshare.net/IpsosMORI/ipsos-global-dvisor-22-attitudes-to-immigration-july-2011)

72% agree that the current level of immigration has an adverse effect on local public services such as schools and hospitals

(YouGov for Migration Watch UK, January 2010, URL: http://www.yougov.co.uk/extranets/ygarchives/content/pdf/MigrationWatch-marginal_Jan10.pdf)

10. On the Impact on Jobs…

74% of respondents agreed that firms shouldn’t recruit from overseas while a million young people in Britain are unemployed.

(ComRes for The Independent on Sunday, August 2013, http://www.comres.co.uk/polls/SM_IoS_Political_Poll_August_2013.pdf, page 70.)

67% of respondents agreed that British firms should be able to give British citizens priority over other EU citizens when hiring new workers, even if this means the UK would have to leave the EU.

(ComRes for The Independent on Sunday, August 2013, http://www.comres.co.uk/polls/SM_IoS_Political_Poll_August_2013.pdf, page 66.)

19% of respondents thought immigration was good for the British economy, while 57% thought it was bad.

(YouGov for the The Sunday Times, June 2013, http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/rj6l6hgo07/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-310513.pdf, p.7)

When asked whether immigration is good for the economy, some 49% of UK respondents said that it was not while 27% said that it was.

(IPSOS for Global Advisor, survey of 24 countries, June 2012, http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2972/Global-dvisor-Survey-reveals-negative-attitudes-to-immigration.aspx )

66% believe that immigration has caused unemployment to rise more than it would have done and 63% believe that a sharp reduction in immigration would be good for Britain’s economy, because it would mean more jobs for British-born workers

(YouGov for Vote UK out of the EU, January 2012, URL: http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/vyh16v2yzx/YG-Archives-VoteUkOutEU-YouGov-260112.pdf)

66% believe that immigration has had a negative impact on the availability of jobs

(Ipsos Mori for British Future, December 2011, URL: http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2901/British-Future-State-of-the-Nation-Poll.aspx, http://www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Polls/state-of-the-nation-2011-british-future-topline.pdf)

62% believe that immigration has made it more difficult for existing residents to get jobs

(Ipsos Global Advisor Poll, August 2011, URL: http://www.slideshare.net/IpsosMORI/ipsos-global-dvisor-22-attitudes-to-immigration-july-2011)

70% believe that population growth contributes to unemployment

(YouGov for Population Matters, May 2011, URL: http://populationmatters.org/2011/news/people-uk-population-high/?phpMyAdmin=e11b8b687c20198d9ad050fbb1aa7f2f)

40% of Asian community believe that immigrants had put their jobs at risk and 47% of Asians believe that immigrants have made it harder to get a fair wage for what they did

(Searchlight, February 2011, http://www.fearandhope.org.uk/project-report/)

65% believe that migrant workers are “undercutting British workers in terms of pay and taking our jobs as a result”

(YouGov for Juniper TV, January 2008, URL: http://cdn.yougov.com/today_uk_import/YG-Archives-pol-juniper-Immigration-080407.pdf)

11. On Integration of Migrants…

Only 43% said that they would rather live in an area where most people are from the same ethnic background. 59% feel that the biggest obstacle to being British is ‘not speaking English’, 9% felt that being from an ethnic minority stops people from being British, while 11% felt that having foreign born parents was a barrier to being British.

( IPSOS Mori, http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2924/Two-in-five-Britons-dont-know-when-St-Georges-Day-is.aspx)

93% believe that immigrants coming to live permanently in the UK should be required to learn English

(YouGov for The Sunday Times, April 2011, URL: http://cdn.yougov.com/today_uk_import/yg-archives-pol-st-results-05-170411.pdf)

12. On Illegals…

67% believe that illegal immigrants should be deported immediately with no right of appeal to the courts if they are found to have entered the country illegally

(YouGov for The Sunday Times, January 2012, URL: http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/d51j2t3jzl/YG-Archives-Pol-ST-results-06-080112.pdf)

58% believe that illegal immigrants took jobs away from UK workers

61% would like to see illegal immigrants deported from the UK

(Angus Reid, December 2011, URL: http://www.angus-reid.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/2011.12.20_Immigration_BRI.pdf)

72% disagreed that an amnesty should be granted to illegal immigrants in Britain

(YouGov for Migration Watch UK, June 2006, URL: http://cdn.yougov.com/today_uk_import/YG-Archives-pol-migrationw-ImmigrationAtt-060705_0.pdf)

13. On Community Cohesion…

Ethnic minority voters agreed that immigration was the second biggest issue facing the UK, but placed it a distant second after the economy with 6% citing it as the most important issue against the 56% that chose the economy.

(Lord Ashcroft Polls, April 2013, http://lordashcroftpolls.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Ethnic-minority-survey-April-2013-full-tables.pdf)

11% thought immigration had been good for community relations, while 64% thought it’d been bad. 57% of respondents thought tension between immigrants and people born in Britain was the biggest problem facing Britain.

(IPSOS Mori for British Future, November 2012, http://www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Polls/BritishFuture_2013_topline.PDF)

35% thought that the UK had become more tolerant in the last decade, while 43% thought that it had become less tolerant.

(YouGov for the Sunday Times, December 2012, http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/w0hvkihpjg/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-14-161212.pdf, p.4)

88% believe that immigrants who are unable to speak English or unwilling to integrate have created ‘discomfort and disjointedness’ in British communities

(YouGov for The Sunday Times, April 2011, URL: http://cdn.yougov.com/today_uk_import/yg-archives-pol-st-results-05-170411.pdf)

71% believe that there is an increasing amount of tension between the different groups living in Britain

(Searchlight, February 2011, http://www.fearandhope.org.uk/project-report/)

Updated 31 January, 2014

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