Back in June a YouGov survey for the Sunday Times revealed that most people believe immigration is a significant concern, and that the rules need to be tightened. 69% wanted fewer immigrants from the rest of the EU and 73% wanted fewer immigrants from outside the EU.
This included Labour and some Liberal Democrat supporters as well as the expected overwhelming vote in favour from UKIP and Conservative supporters. When people asked which party they trusted most to handle immigration UKIP topped the list with 25% of the vote, followed by the Tories at 18%, Labour at 14% and the Lib Dems at 6%.
So far so standard – but as YouGov President Peter Kellner pointed out at the time, this means that 29% trust none of the four parties – and up to 24 million people reject the possibility of the three traditional parties offering a solution.
All this is slightly counter-intuitive, given that immigration has, in face, been falling. Net immigration fell from 242,000 in 2011 to 153,000 in 2012.
What this confirms is what’s been indicated by polls for years – that there is very little connection between fact and public opinion when it comes to immigration.
For example, an Ipsos MORI poll from 2011 commissioned by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory revealed that those responding in favour of tighter controls on immigration were most likely to think of asylum seekers, (62%) and least likely to have students in mind, (29%).
Yet students make up the largest group of immigrants to the UK, (37%) whilst asylum seekers represent the smallest group at just 4%.
None of the major parties has yet had the courage to re-frame the debate, and argue that immigration isn’t the enormous problem it’s been portrayed as by most media outlets. And the pilot ‘go home van’ scheme suggests that the Conservatives have decided to try to tackle the issue by placating a baying public instead, through public performance.
And given the fuss recently kicked up by the same party over not enough immigrants speaking English, (claims which are, in themselves, questionable) it’s hard to see how they could have set up their ‘go home’ scheme with any hope of it actually working for illegal immigrants themselves. Unless of course, they don’t believe that more immigrants need urgently to learn English either, and that policy was another cynical move to win popular support through immigrant-baiting?