Results from the Transatlantic Trends survey, published today, give a robust insight into what people in Britain think about immigration. The findings are striking, not least because the survey compares British attitudes with those of the Americans, French, Germans, Italians and Spanish.
The central message is that British citizens are deeply concerned about immigration, and are more so than their continental neighbours. In fact, the British are more than twice as likely as any other nationality to consider immigration the most important issue facing the country. (Only the economy and unemployment attracted more votes).
The British are more likely—than any other European nationality—to feel there are too many immigrants in the country. 57 per cent of Britons believed this compared to a Europe-wide average of 42 per cent. There is also evidence that negative attitudes toward immigrants are hardening; while the British are more likely than any other nationality to agree immigration is “more of a problem than opportunity” (68 per cent), they are also more likely to say so today than in 2008. Prominent voices have set out the case for immigration, but it appears few voters are convinced.
This scepticism is clear when you look at attitudes to the economic and cultural impact of immigration. We are more likely than our continental neighbours to think that immigrants are having negative economic effects, whether by taking jobs (58 per cent), bringing down wages (52 per cent) or burdening social services (63 per cent). But we are also the most likely in Europe to think immigrants are negatively affecting our national culture (50 per cent compared to a European average of 35 per cent). As above, we are more likely to hold this view today than we were in 2009.