Support grows in UK for targeted immigration

The last seven years have seen growing public support for legal immigration to the UK, according to the latest survey conducted annually by polling company Ipsos.

adults with arms raised in support of question
When the tracker was first commissioned by the British Future think-tank in 2015, only 35 per cent regarded immigration positively while 41 per cent viewed it negatively.Today, the number who look at it positively has grown to 46 per cent while the percentage believing it has a negative effect has declined to 29 per cent.
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A shift in attitudes

The tracker's publication comes at a time when business groups, including the Confederation of British Industry and the British Chambers of Commerce, are pressing the Government to urgently expand the Shortage Occupation List, which would make it easier for firms to get visas for the people needed to fill chronic labour shortages.Ipsos said the results of the survey showed that public attitudes had shifted over the years and now represented and more "nuanced" and balanced approach.The report added: "Migration to study at UK universities – which Home Secretary Suella Braverman has recently suggested she would like to reduce – is also popular with the public at current levels."Around one in five would reduce international student numbers while two-thirds would prefer numbers to stay the same or increase. Only 29 per cent of Conservative supporters support reducing student migration."As far as immigration as a whole is concerned, 42 per cent of the 3,004 adults polled said they would like numbers reduced – the lowest figure recorded since the tracker was introduced – while 50 per cent said they favoured numbers remaining the same or being increased.

Meeting skills gaps

Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future said: "Liz Truss and Suella Braverman have pragmatic permission from the public to welcome more overseas workers to fill labour and skills gaps and help economic growth."That’s because overall numbers matter less to the public now: their priority is that immigration is controlled, rather than reduced."They inherit a less heated immigration debate as a legacy of Boris Johnson’s ‘control not reduce’ approach. This asserted UK control over migration policy, by ending free movement, but allowed immigration for work and study to increase."Not surprisingly, perhaps, the tracker found widespread support for increased immigration in the health and care sectors, and increased backing for more immigrants in the construction, agriculture and hospitality sectors.

More measured views in national immigration debate

Ipsos commented: "Public attitudes remain more nuanced on immigration than people might expect, with no blanket views on either side."For example, while there is little demand for increases in immigration overall, there is support for allowing more workers across a range of sectors where the public sees a need."This regular tracking research helps us understand these views and how they are changing – as well as highlighting misperceptions among the public themselves."In particular, most people think their fellow citizens have become more negative towards immigration over the last few years but in reality attitudes have become more positive since before the Brexit referendum."

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