How does Britain really feel about immigration? 






31st May 2024

The issue of immigration is already proving to be a key battleground in this election campaign, with the Conservatives, Labour, and Reform all putting forward their plans to reduce immigration. However, a closer look reveals important nuances in how the public feels about immigration, to which a flat reduction in the level of immigration may be ill-suited.

An overview of public attitudes towards the level of immigration suggests widespread support for reducing immigration. When we asked about the number of immigrants coming to the UK, half (50%) of respondents say it should be decreased, including a third (34%) who say it should be decreased a lot. While a quarter (24%) think it should stay the same, just 17% think it should be increased. Support for a decrease in immigration outnumbers support for an increase across all age groups, genders, regions and political affiliations.

However, this seeming consensus obscures complexity within public attitudes towards immigration. In our most recent poll, we asked about the impact of immigrants to the UK on economic recovery – opinion is split right down the middle. While two in five (42%) think immigrants damage the UK’s economic recovery by taking jobs away from people already living in the UK, the same amount (42%) believe the opposite – that immigrants to this country help economic recovery by bringing needed skills and labour.

In our survey last October, we also asked whether the UK should allow more, less, or the same amount of specific groups of people to come and live in the UK. The results reveal two key nuances in public opinion towards the level of immigration.

Firstly, support for immigration amongst the public varies substantially depending on the group of people in question. It matters to the public which people come to the UK, and why. Attitudes are most favourable towards skilled workers and those who come to work in the NHS – a plurality think more of these people should be allowed to come and live in the UK (42% and 47% respectively). At the other end of the scale, just one in ten (11%) think more low-skilled workers should be allowed to come and live in the UK.

Second, the overall level of opposition to immigration is substantially lower when we ask about specific groups of people than when we ask about ‘immigrants’ in general. The number of respondents who think fewer people should be allowed to come and live in the UK, for all of the groups respondents were asked about, is lower than the number who support a reduction in the number of immigrants in general (50%). Although only slightly fewer (48%) think fewer low-skilled workers should be allowed into the UK, for all other groups this figure is considerably lower.

Deltapoll interviewed 1,517 British adults online between 5th to 7th October 2023, and 1,517 British adults online between 23rd to 25th May 2024. The data have been weighted to be representative of the British adult population as a whole. Full results are available on the Deltapoll website. Both polls were commissioned by the Mail on Sunday.

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Ruby CooperAuthor: Ruby Cooper