Public opinion and the politics of immigration

By Lord Ashcroft

See the Sunday Times for further coverage of this research.

The debate over immigration encapsulates all the stuff of politics: who we are as a country, how we see our economic prospects, our sense of entitlement and obligation, the purpose of public services and the broader welfare state. And while the subject is no longer taboo – if it ever was – it regularly proves to be explosive. Many feel that over the last fifteen years immigration has been allowed to happen on a scale we cannot cope with, and without public consent being sought or given.

Whatever people’s view of immigration itself, few think any recent government has had any real grasp of it, or that any of the parties does today. Most do not feel there is any strategy for dealing with the number of migrants, for their successful integration into British society, or for managing the effects on housing, infrastructure, jobs, the NHS, schools, or the benefits system.

In a poll of more than 20,000 people I found that six in ten thought immigration had produced more disadvantages than advantages for the country as a whole; only 17% thought the pros outweighed the cons. (more…)