Understanding public opinion on immigration in Britain

Findings from this survey of adults in Great Britain, conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of The Migration Observatory at Oxford University, show public attitudes to immigration are nuanced and complex. While the public are still keen to see an overall reduction in immigration, their attitudes vary depending upon which immigrant groups they are considering.

Findings from this survey of adults in Great Britain, conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of The Migration Observatory at Oxford University, suggest that, when thinking about immigrants, the public are most likely to think of asylum seekers (62%) and least likely to think of students (29%).

Current official ONS statistics show that students represent the largest group coming to the UK (37% of 2009 arrivals) while asylum seekers are the smallest group (4% in 2009).

The British public tend to think of immigrants as those who come to the UK permanently (62%) rather than those who come to stay temporarily (fewer than 30%).

The findings show seven in ten members of the British public support reduced immigration (69%), which is in line with previous polls.

Among those who want immigration reduced 54% say they would like reductions either “only” (28%) or “mostly” (26%) among illegal immigrants, while just over a third (35%) support reductions equally among legal and illegal immigrants.

Technical note

Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,002 adults aged 15+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted face-to-face over the period 2-8 September, 2011. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.

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