- LIVE TV
Sixty per cent of the public believe immigration has damaged Britain, a major poll has revealed.
The study, commissioned by former Tory treasurer Lord Ashcroft, reveals widespread concern about the scale of immigration and its impact on jobs and public services.
Just one person in six (17 per cent) believes that the advantages of immigration have outweighed the disadvantages.
Many of the 20,000 people polled also reported direct experience of losing out to immigrants in the competition for a job or public services such as housing.
Overall, it was identified as the second most important issue facing Britain after the state of the economy.
Lord Ashcroft said the study revealed deep concerns about immigration, coupled with scepticism that any of the political parties would deal with the problem.
‘Many feel that over the past 15 years immigration has been allowed to happen on a scale we cannot cope with, and without public consent being sought or given,’ he said.
‘Politicians underestimated the size of the challenge, lost control of the situation, refused for too long to acknowledge that any problems might result, and are now struggling but failing to cope.
‘Most [of the public] do not feel there is any strategy for dealing with the number of migrants and their successful integration into British society, or for managing the effects on housing, infrastructure, jobs, the NHS, schools or the benefits system.’
More than three-quarters of people (77 per cent) said they supported a ‘drastic’ reduction in immigration, saying it would make it easier for British people to find jobs and reduce the pressure on public services.
More than one-third (36 per cent) said that they or a family member had found it harder to get work because of competition from immigrants, and almost a quarter (24 per cent) said they or a family member had lost out to immigrants in the queue for council housing or other public services.
Women were more hostile to immigration, with just 14 per cent saying immigration had been a good thing, compared to 21 per cent of men.
And there were clear differences between supporters of the political parties.
Some 62 per cent of Tory voters thought immigration had damaged Britain, compared to 48 per cent of Labour voters and 39 per cent of Lib Dems.
Ninety-one per cent of UKIP voters said immigration was damaging Britain.
The poll also identified differences in class attitudes towards immigration.
Middle-aged working-class voters were far more concerned about the issue, with 90 per cent saying it was one of the biggest challenges facing the country.
By contrast, graduates working in the public sector were likely to be far more positive about immigration, with 80 per cent saying it had benefited Britain.
But the poll also revealed some more nuanced attitudes towards immigration. Some 83 per cent said they or a family member had been treated by NHS staff from overseas, and 49 per cent said immigrants were willing to do jobs that British workers do not want to do, with 38 per cent saying they also worked harder than their British counterparts.
The poll also revealed deep public scepticism about the willingness of the government to deal with the problems produced by immigration.
A controversial Home Office poster campaign warning illegal immigrants to ‘Go home or face arrest’ was supported by 79 per cent of people, but only 17 per cent think it will work while just 37 per cent of people think illegal immigrants already in the country are ever likely to face deportation.
David Cameron has pledged to cut net migration – the difference between numbers entering and leaving Britain – to under 100,000 from non-EU countries by the time of the next general election in 2015.
But, alarmingly for the Prime Minister, the study shows most people are not aware of government initiatives to bring about this reduction.
The poll found that 76 per cent of people supported an annual cap on non-EU immigration but only 34 per cent knew it had taken place.
There was also widespread support for other initiatives, such as cracking down on bogus colleges that grant places to immigrants pretending to be students, toughening requirements for immigrants to speak English and making it harder for people to bring in spouses from outside Europe, but in each case a majority of people was unaware that action had already been taken.
– Daily Mail