LONDON – 15th January 2014 – British public opinion is polarised on the issue of immigration, according to the latest research from TNS UK.

In the survey, 1190 GB adults were asked to rank 10 “possible measures to improve public life in the UK” in order of priority.

The TNS UK Public Priority Index (PPI) found that stricter border controls to reduce immigration was only the fourth biggest priority overall, behind generating economic growth, reducing unemployment and investing more in health care.

However, nearly a third (30%) of those surveyed chose border immigration as one of their top two options – more than any other issue. By contrast, a quarter (25%) placed the issue in their bottom two priorities.

The survey also exposed significant gaps in attitude between different age groups and social classes, as well as supporters of different political parties. 

Only 16% of those aged 18-24 said the issue was one of their top two priorities, compared with 42% of those over 65. Nearly a third (32%) of the 16-24s placed the issue in their bottom two priorities, compared with 20% of the over-65s.

Support for stricter border controls was stronger among the lower income groups (C2DE), with 36% placing the policy among their top two priorities, against 26% of the higher income groups (ABC1).

Among Conservative supporters, 38% ranked the policy in their top two, compared with 19% of Labour voters, 24% of Liberal Democrat supporters and 56% of those backing UKIP. More than a third (35%) of Labour supporters ranked the issue in their bottom two priorities, along with 28% of Liberal Democrat voters, against just 13% of Conservatives and 8% of those backing UKIP.

“The data shows clearly that immigration is a polarising issue,” said Dr Michelle Harrison, CEO of TNS BMRB.

“Lots of voters do feel strongly about it, but it is a low priority for many others. It is important for policymakers to remember that public opinion is more nuanced on this issue than the current debate often suggests.”



Notes for editors:

TNS Omnibus interviewed a representative sample of 1,190 adults in Great Britain between 5th and 9th December 2013.

All interviews were conducted as online self-completion. The data is weighted to match population totals for age, sex, social grade, working status, presence of children, 2010 voting patterns and region. Detailed tables for this survey can be found here.

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