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UK divided on immigration

01 July 2014

A recent poll found that there is a split in the UK on attitudes towards immigration.

On behalf of the government, the 2014 British Social Attitudes Survey polled 3,000 people about life in Britain and how they think it is run. The annual poll focuses on issues such as satisfaction with the NHS, racial prejudice and attitudes towards immigration. This year, the survey also looked into views on Scottish independence.

Overall, the number of people with negative attitudes towards immigration has increased, with 77% saying they want to see immigration reduced. Additionally, a staggering 95% of the respondents said it was important to speak English to be considered British.

The findings for 2014 suggest that there is a social divide on the issue of immigration: 54% of Londoners thought that immigration was good for the economy, compared to 28% elsewhere in the country. Education also seems to be an influencing factor: 60% of those educated to degree level agreed that immigration was good for the economy, compared to just 17% of those with no qualifications.

Interestingly, younger people were also more positive about immigration: 40% of people aged 30-39 said immigration has had a positive impact on Britain’s culture and economy, whereas only 17% of those aged over 70 agreed with this sentiment.

Although almost a quarter of the respondents viewed that the main reason immigrants came to Britain was to claim benefits, experts argue that there is a lack of public awareness on the current restrictions. Penny Young, chief executive of NatCen Social Research, said that although the public "want tougher rules on benefits ... many are unaware of the policies that are in place to control immigration". As an example, this January, new restrictions came into force under which migrant jobseekers must be in the UK for three months before they can claim Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Overall, the findings suggest that a lot more could be done to inform the public of the actual restrictions on immigration that are in place.

The full findings can be read by clicking here.


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