Tighter Immigration Policy Favoured by 66%—Poll

Ruadhan Mac Cormaic, Irish Times (Dublin), September 10, 2008

ALMOST TWO-THIRDS of adults in the State believe immigration policy should be made more restrictive given the worsening economic outlook, according to an opinion poll to be published today.

The survey by Amárach Research for a national integration debate due to be held in Dublin this evening found generally positive attitudes towards recent immigration, with 54 per cent saying it had on balance been good for Ireland. Some 33 per cent felt immigration had been bad for the country and 13 per cent believed it had made little difference.

When asked about future policy, however, given the economic outlook, 66 per cent felt immigration policy should be made more restrictive. Seven per cent said it should be made less restrictive and 27 per cent felt the policy should be left as it is.

Women, the over-55s, middle-income earners and those from Munster were more likely to favour tighter restrictions.

The poll was conducted last week among a sample of 1,000 adults in the Republic. Some of the respondents were themselves foreign nationals, but they represented too small a subsample to be separated for analysis.

Gerard O’Neill, chairman of Amárach Research, said respondents had distinguished between their views of recent immigration—which were very positive—and their concerns about future levels.

“People are now saying we couldn’t continue as we have been given the new economic realities that we’re facing. It’s saying there isn’t a problem now, but there’s a concern that were things to continue at a pace similar to the past 10 years, then it may well give rise to a problem,” he added.

Responses to questions on the integration of immigrants showed feelings of limited progress. Some 59 per cent said the Government was doing too little in the area, while 30 per cent felt it was doing enough and 11 per cent suggested it was doing too much.

Just under a third of respondents were aware of groups in their area active in promoting integration.

Dubliners, higher earners and the middle-aged were more likely to suggest immigrants were integrated.

On the effects of immigration on public services, 42 per cent were “a little worried” about its impact on the education system.

Another 35 per cent were “not at all worried”, with 23 per cent “extremely worried”. Asked about the health service, 39 per cent were “a little worried”, 28 per cent not at all and 33 per cent “extremely worried”.

Mr O’Neill said it was noteworthy that young people and women were more likely to feel immigration had been bad for Ireland.

“Forty-eight per cent of females said it was a good thing versus 37 per cent a bad thing, while 58 per cent of men said it’s a good thing, [and] 30 per cent a bad thing,” he said.

“Women in particular are less positive about the impact of immigration than men. There’s a fairly significant difference.”

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