Sunday, 1 June 2014

Does opposition to immigration vary by migrant group?

It is well-known that many people living in the UK currently favour less immigration. For example, in a 2012 poll, YouGov posed the question,
How would you vote in a referendum to reduce net immigration to zero, so that the number of immigrants settling in Britain each year is no more than the number of Britons leaving this country to settle abroad?
A full 69% of respondents said that they would support a policy of reducing net immigration to zero, while only 21% said that they would oppose such a policy. The latest data from the British Social Attitudes survey bolster this finding. As the Oxford Migration Observatory notes, "approximately 3/4 of British people favour reducing immigration, on most recent polls and surveys." Overall then, opposition to immigration is considerable. But does it vary depending on which migrant group is under consideration?

Here I investigate this question using data from a 2013 YouGov poll in which respondents were asked,
Thinking about different types of people who want to come and live in the UK, to what extent should the following groups of people be allowed to come and live in Britain?
The groups under consideration were sevenfold, but here I examine just four: low-skilled migrants, asylum seekers, high-skilled migrants and wealthy investors. The first chart below displays the percentage of respondents who want less or zero immigration of each migrant group, broken down by voting intention; the second chart displays the percentage who want zero immigration of each group, again broken down by voting intention.

A couple of interesting conclusions can be drawn from the two charts. First, quite unsurprisingly, UKIP supporters are uniformly the most opposed to immigration, while Lib Dem supporters are generally the most supportive. And second, opposition varies substantially by migrant group. Respondents are most opposed to the immigration of low-skilled workers, and are least opposed to the immigration of high-skilled workers and wealthy investors. Indeed, a majority of every party's supporters want less immigration of low-skilled workers, yet a majority of every party's supporters also want the same or more immigration of high-skilled workers and wealthy investors.

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