Anti-immigration drive might not win over public

Immigration remains a perilous policy area for the coalition
Immigration remains a perilous policy area for the coalition

By politics.co.uk staff

Tough steps to reduce immigration levels may not placate public frustration on the issue, researchers have claimed.

A report from Oxford University's Migration Observatory found that there is not a clear link between net migration levels and public support for cutting inflation.

It cited long-term data showing that opposition to immigration was extremely high in the 1960s and 1970s, when immigration levels were very low.


The coalition government has pledged to cut immigration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands.

It is far from clear it will succeed in its goal, which - because of freedom of movement rules within the EU - will only be achieved through a massive clampdown on the student route of immigration.

Even if it does, the Migration Observatory suggested in its latest commentary paper, public opinion may not offer its approval.

"The available evidence does not suggest a straightforward relationship between immigration and public support for reduced immigration," its report stated.

"This implies that there is no guarantee that reducing immigration or net-migration will lead to lower public opposition to immigration."

Its research also suggested there is not a link between public support for immigration and the scale of immigration in a particular area.

London and Scotland were the parts of the country which were most supportive of immigration, despite one having the highest migrant population and the other the lowest population density.

"If you look at the UK as a whole, British people are overwhelmingly supportive of cuts to immigration, but this masks a raft of notable variations around the country," public opinion specialist Scott Blinder said.

"London and Scotland have lower levels of opposition to immigration than the Midlands and Wales, but this doesn't seem to be clearly related to the number of migrants in any of these places." 

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