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Britons reporting record levels of anti-immigration attitudes

Published time: January 08, 2014 13:58
A child peers out during the migrant's day march for immigrant rights in Trafalgar Square (Reuters / Luke MacGregor)

A child peers out during the migrant's day march for immigrant rights in Trafalgar Square (Reuters / Luke MacGregor)

Despite potential risks to national economic performance, 77 percent of Britons want reductions in the number of new arrivals to their country, according to the findings of a new public opinion poll.

A whopping eight out of 10 Britons now believe that immigration rates should be limited, with almost six in 10 supporting significant reductions in the number of foreigners allowed in, according to the latest findings from the British Social Attitudes survey, which has been tracking public opinion for more than three decades.

The study, which polled more than 3,000 people, discovered that 77 percent want immigration numbers decreased, with just four percent favoring an increase.

Fifty six percent favor reducing the number of new arrivals “a lot” – a record figure. In 1995, when the question was first posed to Britons, just 39 percent supported major reductions, while two years ago only 51 percent held the view.

Surprisingly, 54 percent of individuals who view immigration as a positive factor for the economy still want to see immigration reductions, including one full quarter who would favor “severe reductions.” Among those who believe immigration is culturally beneficial to the nation, 55 percent still support greater limitations.

One in three Britons now support the view that immigration stimulates Britain culturally, as opposed to 45 percent who believe it is outright dangerous.

The number of Britons, including immigrant families themselves - advocating a large reduction in immigration numbers has surged by more than 40 percent since before the expansion of the European Union. However, the poll shows a dramatic divide along class lines, with high-paid, highly educated individuals twice as likely as people from middle- and lower- income families to see immigration in glowing terms.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron is shown around a house in Southall in London on December 18, 2013 which was raided earlier in the day by immigration officers. (AFP Photo / David Bebber)

Even those who support the idea that immigration has helped Britain’s economy and enriched its culture, majorities now want to see it slashed.

One individual who holds such views is Nigel Farage, leader of the right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP), who wants a five-year ban on people coming to settle in Britain while immigration policy is amended. .

"If you said to me do you want to see another five million people come to Britain, and if that happened we would all be slightly richer, I would say, do you know what, I would rather we were not slightly richer,” he told BBC Radio 4.

"I would rather we had communities that were rather more united and we had a situation where young unemployed British people had a realistic chance of getting a job, so yes I do think the social side of this matters more than the pure market economics."

Meanwhile, Business Secretary Vince Cable, whose Liberal Democrat party shares power with the Conservatives, said Prime Minister David Cameron's goal of cutting net migration to Britain to "tens of thousands" by 2015 was "not sensible." Speaking in a BBC documentary, The Truth About Immigration, Cable said Britain was powerless to control migration inflows from the European Union, not to mention the number of Britons returning from abroad.

He said the Liberal Democrats had never endorsed Cameron's "arbitrary" efforts to reduce net migration to under 100,000 before the next general election in May 2015.

In November, Britain scrapped a plan to force people from India, Pakistan, and some African countries to pay a cash deposit in return for a six-month visa. Officials said the money would be refunded as the person left the country upon expiration of their visa. The plan was intended to serve as a deterrent to foreigners overstaying their visas.