Strong support for a cap on immigration amidst economic concern

Three quarters (75 per cent) of Britons believe that immigration is currently a problem, according to new research released today by Ipsos MORI.

Three quarters (75 per cent) of Britons believe that immigration is currently a problem, according to new research released today by Ipsos MORI. There is also strong support for the government's plan to introduce an annual cap on the on the number of workers coming into Britain from countries outside the European Union. More than half (57 per cent) support the cap and only 15 per cent oppose it. The main cause of concern about immigration is the perceived burden it has on public services and the pressure it places on jobs. Indeed, lower skilled workers are the most likely to say immigration is a problem. With youth unemployment reaching record highs, concern amongst those aged 16 to 24 has seen a big increase (this group is usually least negative about immigration). Almost half (49 per cent) of them believe that immigration to Britain will damage the economic recovery by taking away jobs from people already living here. The West Midlands has the highest level of concern, with 88 per cent perceiving immigration as an issue. Despite a very high number of immigrants, London is the region with the least anxiety but the numbers are still high at 61 per cent. While less than ten per cent of people want to see an end to all immigration into Britain, there is strong support for tougher laws. With the annual immigration cap set to come into force in April, almost two thirds (65 per cent) of the population are in favour of tighter controls on the numbers of people coming into the UK. In spite of this, there are some doubts as to how effective the cap will be. While 43 per cent of the public believe it will work, almost half (47%) think it will not be effective. Opposition to the cap is highest in London where a quarter (23%) oppose the Coalition’s policy.

Chief Executive of Ipsos MORI, Ben Page, said:

"The research shows strong support for tougher immigration policies, and high levels of concern. For the first time we are now seeing a rise in people saying immigration is not just a problem nationally, but specifically in their own local areas. Concern amongst young people about immigration has also increased and that could be attributed to the high levels of youth unemployment. At the same time almost half the public think new tougher government policies won't work (47%) - a challenge for this government will be to show how they can."

Despite the majority of people seeing immigration as a problem, the public's attitudes towards immigration are formed on misconceptions. Only seven per cent of people think that Britain has a lower proportion of asylum seekers than other countries in Europe, compared to 58 per cent who believe it is higher. With the vast majority of people getting their information on immigration from broadcast and print media, the exceptional stories that appear in the press have clearly had an effect on Britons.

Technical Note

Data on concern about immigration and support/effectiveness of the cap comes from a survey where Ipsos MORI interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,004 British adults aged 16+ February 2011.Interviews were carried out face-to-face over the period 4th-10th February, 2011.

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