New data reveals nationwide desire for lower immigration
The latest wave of UnHerd Britain polling shows an unusual level of agreement
New UnHerd Britain polling today reveals the strength of opposition across Britain to current levels of immigration: 57% of Britons agree with the statement “Immigration levels are too high”, compared to just 20% who disagree.
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It is the latest in a series of statements which UnHerd has tested as part of this series. Based on a survey of 10,000 voters, our partners FocalData have produced MRP estimates for each individual constituency based on the results.
As the map below reveals, a desire to reduce levels of immigration is almost universal across the country — in only one constituency of the 632 do more residents disagree than agree with the statement: Bristol West, which also ranked as the constituency that most regretted Brexit and most supported gender self-ID policies.
Boston and Skegness was the constituency that most strongly agreed immigration levels are too high, mirroring previous UnHerd Britain polling which revealed it was the only constituency in the UK that doesn’t regret Brexit.
Despite regular reports from survey groups that, as a political issue, immigration is less important to voters since Brexit, today’s results show a very high level of support for reduced immigration across the political spectrum. That 80% of those who voted for the Brexit Party in the 2019 general election, as well as 72% of Conservative supporters, believe immigration is too high may not be surprising. But our data reveals that dominant pluralities of Green voters (47%), Labour voters (45%) and Liberal Democrats (41%) share the same view.
It also appears that immigration inspires broad agreement across different age groups. Of those in the 18-24 age bracket, 42% agree, with only 24% disagreeing (a higher proportion of this group were unsure or ambivalent about the issue). Among the 25-34 bracket, 52% agreed and 20% disagreed.
The results confirm that so-called “Red Wall” seats such as Hartlepool are more likely to be critical of immigration.
At the other end of the spectrum, eight of the top ten pro-immigration constituencies also appeared in our list of most Bregretful areas, and many have high student populations. In several cases, they are less ethnically diverse than Britain as a whole. Even these constituencies are still cautious about the numbers of foreign nationals entering the UK.
Of all the issues we have investigated for UnHerd Britain 2023, immigration is the topic that unites the country in the strongest agreement. Taking back control of immigration was a key driver behind the Brexit vote. Nearly seven years on, voters evidently believe that successive Conservative governments have failed in this regard.
Perhaps the answer to the latest migrant accommodation crisis is to distribute people to the 10 areas who are most in favour of immigration. I hear Islington is very comfortable at this time of year.
As a nation we have a culture, an identity, a simple and instinctive knowledge of what and who we are. We don’t want that culture destroyed.
It is not very much to ask. Why do all of our politictians simply pretend not to understand this?
Part of it may be the demographic decline which is a real problem not getting much attention.
I think this adds weight to my hypothesis that the Tories are going to be buried forever at the next general election. They will simply evaporate.
Never before have so many, learned so little, from so much.
Then we can look forward to having the same incompetence and same policies inflicted on us by a different party.
The Tories have historically used the period out of office to re-align and make a comeback. And the antics of Labour make that easier than it need be.
The opportunity (or risk) is that some third party (probably not the Lib Dems) will seize the chance to establish a strong foothold in Parliament.
If I were Rishi Sunak I’d consider approving the next Scottish IndyRef smartish. Although it’s against the formal policy of the Tories it would probably gain a lot of support from the English and Scottish (but for different reasons). If successful it would also eventually remove Scottish MPs from Westminster – and they are unlikely to be Tories any time soon.
Why not let London go too? Let it become a City state like San Marino. Elects Labour Majors, the epicentre of the Metropolitan elite and full of immigrants. Surely you’d concur?
Good idea, providing there are several layers of barbed wire fencing, electric (non-lethal) fencing and well-guarded checkpoints along the perimeter of the city state.
that is a bit unfortunate, because all of the mainstream political parties are determined that you must have it. Mass immigration is their go-to solution for every problem.
Why struggle to improve productivity when you can simply import the cheap labour you need!
The only ‘problem’ these politicians think it will solve is national identity. Their aim is world government and a totalitarian one at that.
It is such an open goal!
The hard work – leaving the EU and regaining the right to set our own immigration policy – has been done. It is frustrating that neither party can grasp it and put it all together:
A cap on overall immigration at 100k net per year.
A skills based work visa system (already in place)
All illegal immigrants detained and deported with no exceptions.
A focus on training our own people to fit the gaps left behind.
Incentives for firms to reduce their need for foreign labour through process improvements.
Something in these 5 MM. But few questions hope ok:
Does the 100k include students?
Skills based visa system – we have this now yet net immigration far higher than you/we’d like. So what would be different?
Illegals – deported to where, esp if we don’t have an arrangement with that country for ‘returns’ ? And if Rwanda for the lot, at what cost and for how long? (I think Rwanda only agreed 1k for a trial period to date. They may take more, but is it enough and what’s the cost etc)
Training our own – focus areas? cost? how to fund it? How long will it take and what do with skills gaps in meantime?
Company incentives – how do we baseline and then monitor this? how long is the ‘incentive’ for? How do we avoid fraud?
I’m not trying to pick holes in the ideas, and in fact I agree with the concepts, but there is a heck of alot more to designing effective Policy than a headline statement. IMO this is where the Right gets it so wrong (and I don’t mean you). The Right just doesn’t do the hard-yards in policy development and explanation. It thinks too often the ‘market’ will then sort things. It doesn’t.
Morning J! I agree with your bottom paragraph and this is what infuriates me. Here are my thoughts on your questions:
Foreign Students: The net 100k proposal in the 2015 and 2017 Tory manifestos did include students. The idea is that having hundreds of thousands of foreign students each year is fine so long as last year’s students return home after graduation. The overall number remains flat and there is no extra burden on resources. Obviously this needs policing so that foreign students don’t just disappear into the black market. Also we should stop the practise of foreign students being allowed to bring dependents.
Skills based visa system: there are actually two routes to get a work visa – the Shortage Occupation list and the Skilled Worker list. The difference is that the minimum salary of shortage occupations – like care home workers – can be lower. I would attempt to reduce the numbers coming through the Shortage Occupation route by training British kids (see below).
The other lever to pull to restrict numbers would be to increase the minimum salary for Skilled Workers. It is currently set at £25,600 which is ludicrously low! It should be more like £40k. Although it might be prudent to capture some of those foreign students who get high value degrees so we might want t lower salary rate for under 30-year olds with high value qualifications.
Illegal immigrants: There are two strands here as well, both of which are – I believe – in progress. The first is improving return agreements with countries to take their own citizens. We are told that two have been agreed with Albania and India. More needs to be done on that front.
The second is with incentivised third countries. I believe negotiations are ongoing with other countries (I read about three south American countries). The cost is almost certainly lower than detaining them in Britain. The number deported to these third countries is hopefully quite low as once the message gets out that only detention and deportation awaits you in the UK, would be immigrants will choose another option. That’s the hope anyway!
Training: I would encourage all but the brightest 18 year olds to go down the apprenticeship and vocational training route as opposed to going to university. The apprenticeship system is actually a big achievement of the last few years. The new T-Level system is also encouraging. These should be the routes by which we try to fill the Shortage Occupations from within the country’s current population. I would further encourage this by increasing the grade requirement for someone to get a Student Loan to study for an academic degree. Unless you get ABB at A Level, you have no business studying English Literature or Sociology. You would be better starting an apprenticeship.
Business Incentives: I’m thinking here along the lines of the Super Deduction that Sunak introduced in 2021 that allows firms to claim 130% of the cost of new plant and machinery against their tax bill. This could be extended and focused to investments that have a reasonable chance of reducing low-cost labour – automation of key processes for instance.
Fraud would be monitored in the usual way by the IR and other agencies. (I know the COVID relief funds have made it seem that tax fraud is endemic but i don’t think it was in normal times).
Lots to commend here and thanks.
Re: Students & University sector – part of the dilemma is that the strong desire to study here all over the world is a source of significant exchequer revenue and international ‘soft’ power. That doesn’t mean some elements can’t be pruned but probably worth us being mindful of our strengths too so we ‘don’t kill the goose…’
Re: the capital/investment allowances – I agree something like this needed more broadly. The difficulty is how you’d really determine it was foreign labour you’d weaned a sector away from. Certainly agriculture might be clearer-cut.
Then we have the calculation to make about whether we can sustain the post pandemic surge in early retirement if we want to maintain a workforce equilibrium less reliant on immigration. The difficulty here is a specific generation has significant wealth esp via home ownership enabling earlier retirement. In due course this ‘unwinds’ itself as next generation won’t have this to same degree. But for now it’s exacerbated workforce shortages. Policy response? Probably has to be about further encouraging flexible working and lower intensity low paid work – retirees won’t return to crap terms and conditions
Definitely a program I would agree on. Too bad tory leadershit doesn’t
Uptick for “leadershit”.
Throw in a sharp and severe cull of useless ‘universities’ that still seem to be facilitating questionable migration via the taught masters route and you’re onto a winner. Replace them with what they once were – vocational/technical training colleges.
Couldn’t agree more
Incentives to have large families.
My old parts of London were wrecked by it. Hard to think who would disagree.
Maybe tweek the question – everyone wants Indian Finance and medical experts, Chinese professionals and scientists, Polish Plumbers and brick masons………….
But then that case is presented as ‘Is Immigration Good?’ I mean ‘All Immigrants’? WTF….. because no one would ever ask that question like that unless they were too postmodern to allow that some are good, some not. It is the ones who are not good people are sick of. Ask that – not all or nothing.
Next week, Unherd asks the people of UK
‘Are Laws Good?‘ And then breaks it down city by city, which agree and disagree…haha
New data demonstrates, ‘bears really do poo in the woods’ and that 99% of the population really did think that the Pope really is Catholic !
Precisely. The only reason I can see for them having to state this as if it was previously unknown, or as with their other headline piece about this topic, that it doesn’t mean people are racist, is to demonstrate that the left leaning affluent bubble that most journalists including their writers inhabit is impervious to the reality that the majority live in.
“As the map below reveals, a desire to reduce levels of immigration is almost universal across the country — in only one constituency of the 632 do more residents disagree than agree with the statement: Bristol West, which also ranked as the constituency that most regretted Brexit and most supported gender self-ID policies.”
This, for my sins, is where I live, and I do at times feel like a stranger in a very strange land indeed.
One of those ‘no sh*t Sherlock’ articles.
It must mean, you’d think, all political parties will be v mindful of their line on immigration come the next manifesto. But is that the same as an adult national conversation about the subject? One fears not.
Immigration will play an inevitable role in our national story going forward. The degree to which depends on many other decisions and priorities we choose. Our political discourse does not easily allow this conversation and ‘red meat’ outflanking continuously results in over-promising.
What perhaps the public has learnt is that Brexit was no panacea to immigration, and in fact may have resulted in a switch to immigration from less westernised countries where cultural assimilation challenges are perhaps greater. Whilst at least the Brexit failure in this area will have forced a degree of more informed reflection (one hopes), Brexit lies and misinformation may also have so damaged trust that the opportunity to have a serious national conversation is further weakened. But it’s a conversation we must have – to what degree do we need immigration as our population ages and what obligations are reasonable to place on those being welcomed into our country? These are not unreasonable questions but they require calm, thoughtful debate or we will get it wrong again.
The real problem with immigration is that for decades it has been the case that almost all those who come here, get to stay here. This was recognised 20 years ago by Jacqui Smith, when she was Home Secretary, and said that we have to “break the link” between coming here to work and getting to stay. She failed of course.
Successive governments, instead of using TEMPORARY labour migration to manage the consequences of an ageing population, have – for inscrutable reasons – preferred population replacement.
A lot of questions arise when data are presented like this. It is easy to make claims about Labour, Lib Dem and Green supporters if you don’t look closely at the figures.
1) The ‘traditional’ anti- immigration people (Tories et al) have low figures of ‘don’t knows’. Their ideas are following their political leanings. The traditional pro-immigration people have figures with very high percentages of DKs. What does this mean? It is really unlikely that so many are DKs. Perhaps another answer choice is necessary – Don’t Like To Say.
2) The Plaid people almost certainly include the English as immigrants. Maybe the SNP also see the English as foreigners.
3) The ideas of young people can change with the wind and are worth noting but that is all.
4) If the support for immigration follows the need for cheap labour, how much money would our own citizens require to do these jobs? Or how many days would they take off with ‘mental problems’?
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