Attitudes to migration

From The Economist

report by the Migration Observatory of the University of Oxford found that public opinion in Britain is more strongly opposed to immigration than public opinion in other comparable European and North American countries.

Approximately ¾ of people in Britain favour reducing immigration.

Large majorities in Britain have been opposed to immigration since at least the 1960s.

chart (4)

“Figure 2 shows that majorities of the British public continue to view immigration as too high. However, the trend line in the figure should not be taken as evidence of a decrease over time in this view, or of dramatic changes in 1983 or 2000, as these are quite likely attributable to changes in question-wording and to the response options given to respondents. The beginning of a slight downward trend seen in Figure 2 coincides with a shift from the initial BES question asking if there are too many immigrants in Britain to a different question asking if immigration has ‘gone too far’. This includes a one-time change in 1983 which inverted and further specified the question, asking if ‘cutting Commonwealth immigration’ had ‘gone too far’. (For 1983, Figure 2 depicts the combination of two responses that express a preference for less immigration: that cutting immigration has been ‘about right’ [44%] or ‘has not gone far enough’ [33%]) The series then returns to an Ipsos MORI question similar to the initial BES question, but allowing respondents to more freely choose ‘neither agree nor disagree’ (1994-1999) or ‘don’t know’, which may help account for the lower percentages who say ‘too many’.

“The changes wrought by question-wording and response options suggest the need for healthy scepticism for any single polling result, as even seemingly minor differences can noticeably influence results. Indeed, the relatively low anti-immigration sentiment in 1999 resulted from an unusual number of respondents choosing ‘don’t know’ (13%), which in turn seemed to lead Ipsos MORI to re-introduce the ‘neither agree nor disagree’ option. (It is not clear why the 2001 response was similar to 1999.)”

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