Proportion of Britons who want to see immigration reduced falls to lowest level since 2015

The proportion of those who want to see immigration in Britain reduced has fallen to its lowest level for the first time since our series of longitudinal surveys with IMIX began in February 2015.

The author(s)

  • Glenn Gottfried Public Affairs, Ipsos MORI North
  • Holly Day Public Affairs
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A new Ipsos MORI study on behalf of IMIX, shows:

  • The proportion of those wanting to see immigration reduced is now 49%, which is the lowest we have recorded since our study that began in 2015. Between 2015 and 2018 the figure stood at six in ten or higher, but has fallen since, to 54% in 2019 and 52% in March 2020.  Three in ten (31%) would like it to remain the same as it is (12% want to see it increased).
  • The poll also shows that on balance, Britons are more positive than negative about the impact of immigration on the country with 45% seeing it as positive, 31% seeing it as negative while a quarter (24%) are either indecisive or say they don’t know.
  • Despite all this, there has been a significant increase from when the poll was last taken in March 2020 in the proportion of Britons who think that immigration has been discussed too little (42% compared with 30% in March 2020). A quarter (26%) say that it’s been discussed about the right amount (compared with 35% in March 2020). One in five (18%) say it has been discussed too much (which is similar to March 2020 (20%).
  • There is a significant difference depending on how individuals voted on EU membership, with a majority (56%) of Leave voters saying that is has been discussed too little, compared with a third (32%) of Remain voters. Three in ten (29%) Remain voters say that immigration has been discussed too much compared with just one in ten (10%) Brexit voters.

The poll also revealed:

  • Dissatisfaction with the way the current government is dealing with immigration has also increased from 41% in March to 56% now while those satisfied have decreased from 21% to 12% - although this is only back to the average levels seen previously (March was significantly better than previous waves).
  • Just under half say they would like to see more doctors and nurses come to the UK from the EU, more than a range of other professions.  But fewer people now say that the numbers of doctors and nurses coming to the UK from the EU should be increased than they did in March. Those saying that the number of doctors should be increased is now at 46% (down from 54% in March) while 10% say decreased (up from 9%). The fieldwork for this study was conducted before the current lockdown.
  • Close to half (47%) think the number of nurses coming to the UK from the EU should be increased (which is slightly down from 53%) while 11% say it should be decreased (no change). There was little change from March when it comes to the other various occupations listed.
  • A majority still support the idea of giving EU citizens in the UK a physical identity card although slightly fewer support this than they did in March (52% compared with 57%) although just 14% oppose this (which is similar to the 12% recorded back in March last year).

The poll also asked questions about asylum seekers:

  • A majority (56%) say they have sympathy with the migrants attempting to cross the English Channel (was 53% in March) while 39% say they don’t have sympathy (down from 43%).
  • The public are split when it comes to having an asylum system that is either made to be fair or to deter people from seeking asylum in the UK. Overall, 42% say it’s more important to have an asylum system that is fair, even if that means allowing more asylum seekers to stay and live in the UK than we do now, while 37% say it is important to have an asylum system that deters people from seeking asylum in the UK.
  • When it comes to potential measures relating to the asylum system people are split on whether to continue the UK’s commitment in the United Nations’ refugee resettlement programme (40% support it while 39% oppose it).

Kully Kaur-Ballagan, Research Director, Ipsos MORI said:

The findings of the study fit in with other general trends that we have seen on immigration where the public remain more positive than negative about immigration over time as well as becoming more positive about the impacts it has had on Britain.  At the same time, the public does still favour controls over those coming in – with support for more doctors and nurses levelling off and a split over allowing in more asylum seekers.

Technical Note

  • Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 2,532 online adults aged 18-75yrs across Great Britain between 12- 29 November 2020
  • Data are weighted to reflect the population profile.
  • The survey was conducted on behalf of IMIX, the migration communications hub with funding from Unbound Philanthropy and the Barrow Cadbury Trust.
  • Percentage scores are shown out of 100%. Where figures do not add up to 100%, this is due to computer rounding. An asterisk indicates a score less than 0.5%, but greater than zero.
  • Combined figures are based on the constituent parts (e.g. % agree = % strongly agree + % tend to agree). These figures are also subject to the effect of rounding.

The author(s)

  • Glenn Gottfried Public Affairs, Ipsos MORI North
  • Holly Day Public Affairs

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