Non-partisan think tank British Future commissioned ICM Unlimited to carry out nationally representative polling to understand whether the coronavirus crisis has shifted attitudes to immigration. To this end, a subset of survey questions that were asked in January 2020 were repeated in May 2020.
The findings were written up by British Future and The Policy Institute at King’s College London:
‘Immigration attitudes warming over years, not just months of lockdown‘, British Future
A link to the full report, prepared by British Future and King’s College, can also be found below.
The findings of this research were also covered by i news: ‘Attitudes to immigration have warmed during the lockdown – but shift was well underway before the pandemic struck, research shows‘
The headline findings of the British Future/King’s College report include:
- There is a strong perception that the coronavirus crisis has been a catalyst for transforming views on immigration, particularly in relation to low-skilled workers. A high majority of those surveyed (70 per cent) agree the pandemic has shown the contribution that immigration makes in staffing essential services, and almost two-thirds (64 per cent) say they now value the role of “low-skilled” migrant workers more
- Despite this perception, we have not seen a sudden and dramatic change in attitudes to immigration and public preferences for the points-based system. Overall, there has been little movement in attitudes to immigration since the start of the year, with only a slight increase in the proportion of the population who feel immigration has a positive impact on the UK or who would like to see the level of low-skilled migration increase
- We are, however, seeing a more subtle warming of attitudes when it comes to preferences within the points-based system. Compared to before the COVID-19 outbreak, the public – particularly younger cohorts and ethnic minorities – are now more generous in their allocation of points across a wide range of professions, not just essential workers in the coronavirus response
- These incremental changes during the pandemic are part of a longer-term warming of attitudes towards immigration, starting before the EU referendum. These trends suggest that immigration is both less salient as an issue and that the public have become more positive about the social, economic and cultural impact of migrants who come to live in the UK
The data tables can be found here: ICM Omnibus – British Future – Immigration Questions – Tables – 060720
The poll was commissioned by British Future and carried out by ICM Unlimited. ICM interviewed a representative sample of 2,043 GB adults (18+) between 15 and 17 May 2020. The data has been weighted to the profile of all adults aged 18+ in Great Britain and is weighted by age, gender, region social grade, household tenure, work status, and ethnicity. The data is also weighted by 2019 general election vote and 2016 EU referendum vote.
ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.