British Voters Sour on Immigration

Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute, September 26, 2012

“In the coming 15 years we will have to build, just for new immigrants and their families, the equivalent of eight of the largest cities outside London . . .  together with all their associated infrastructure, of schools, roads, hospitals, railways, and all the rest.”—Nicholas Soames, MP

Three new opinion surveys show that British voters are increasingly skeptical about immigration and multiculturalism. Taken together, the reports highlight the widening gulf between the views of the British people and those of the governing elite who run the country.

Although Britain’s coalition government has repeatedly promised to reduce immigration, in practice the government has found it difficult to take meaningful steps to address the problem. While the Conservative half of the coalition government is solidly in favor of reducing immigration, the Liberal Democrat half is not. As a result, the government has been effectively paralyzed on taking forceful action on the issue.

The British Social Attitudes Survey, an official survey conducted annually which polls Britons on their attitudes about a number of social issues, shows that Britons are far more strongly opposed to immigration, particularly from Muslim countries, than they have been at any time in recent memory.

The 2012 edition of the survey, published on September 17, found that 75% of Britons would like to see a reduction in immigration and 51% would like to see a large reduction. Moreover, 52% of respondents believe that immigration has a negative economic impact and 48% believe that it has a negative cultural impact.


The survey also shows that negative sentiment about immigration is not limited to the white British majority population; over one quarter of first and second generation migrants believe that mass immigration has had a negative impact on British society.

A second poll commissioned by MigrationWatch UK, an independent think tank that focuses on immigration and asylum issues, came up with similarly negative results. The poll, also published on September 17, found that 70% of those polled believe there should be a limit on the number of foreign students admitted to Britain.


On September 13, the British government announced that the Office of National Statistics (ONS) will begin counting non-EU students as immigrants as part of an effort to keep closer tabs foreigners entering and leaving the country.

The coalition government has said it wants to cut net migration, which stood at 216,000 in 2011, to the “tens of thousands” a year by 2015. But critics have warned that this can only be achieved by keeping official statistics on foreign students.

On September 6, MPs at the House of Commons passed a motion calling for the coalition government to take “all necessary steps” to keep the population of the United Kingdom below 70 million. It currently stands at 63 million but is expected to exceed 70 million within the next 15 years. This is equivalent to seven cities the size of Birmingham or fourteen times Bristol or Manchester.

Five million of that increase will be future immigrants and their children, and immigration opponents say that if immigration is allowed to continue at the present rate, the UK population will exceed 80 million.


A third survey, published on September 15 by the Extremis Project, a group that monitors populist politics, found that more than half (66%) of British voters would be willing to back a party that promised to “prioritize traditional British values over other cultures.”

The poll found that 41% of people would vote for a party that promised to curb all immigration and more than one-third (37%) would support political parties that promised to reduce the number of Muslims in Britain and the presence of Islam in society.

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