UKIP have a responsibility to present the truth alongside their policies

Ipsos Mori poll shows UKIP supporters think the UK has twice as many immigrants as it actually does

 

According to an Ipsos Mori survey released this week, UKIP supporters believe there are twice as many foreign-born people living in the UK than there actually are. UKIP supporters polled estimated that 25 per cent of the population is made up of foreign-born immigrants.

What is interesting is that Ipsos Mori say that throughout most of the previous decade, their analytical models showed that where people lived was one of the best indicators of how they felt about immigration. Now, they say, this has ‘changed markedly’, with political allegiance now being the most significant predictor of a person’s attitude to immigration.

It means that UKIP are managing to convince people that the ‘tidal flood’ of immigration is a reality, wherever they live and whatever their own observations may be. This is partly through gross exaggeration; Nigel Farage famously predicted that after visa restrictions were lifted, 5,000 Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants would be arriving in the UK ‘each week, every week’ for several years.

In fact, the numbers did not increase significantly; the Oxford University-based Migration Observatory says that:

“The number of migrants from the A2 countries [Romania and Bulgaria] living in the UK appears to have continued to grow steadily since these countries joined the EU.

“This continued in 2014 but not dramatically: most of the growth in the A2 population took place in the seven years before transitional labour market controls were lifted. “

Between 2013 and 2014 the UK’s Romanian and Bulgarian population increased by 47,000 to 252,000. But it also grew by 163,000 between 2007 and 2013, whilst the transitional controls were in place. An increase, yes; not a ‘flood’ by any means.

Analysis of ONS statistics shows that people from Romania and Bulgaria – on which the exaggeration has focused – made up six per cent of total migration to the UK.

Plus, Nigel Farage is a convincing speaker – the only member of the party who should ever be allowed to speak publicly, judging on recent performances. When he says things like this:

“In scores of our cities and market towns, this country in a short space of time has frankly become unrecognisable[….] Whether it is the impact on local schools and hospitals, whether it is the fact in many parts of England you don’t hear English spoken any more. This is not the kind of community we want to leave to our children and grandchildren”

– people listen. It is so vague – ‘many parts of England’ – that is hard to disprove. Recent research by the ONS showed that support for UKIP tends to be strongest in areas where there is low immigration – this may be partly explained by a Migration Observatory poll showing that people with anti-immigration views were likely to exempt immigrants in their own neighbourhoods from criticism.

Responding to the 2008-9 citizenship survey, 54 per cent of respondents living in London -where immigration is most heavily concentrated – said immigrants were positive for the economy, compared to 28 per cent elsewhere in Britain.

This suggests that for many people, UKIP speak to a fear of the future rather than present circumstance. This is not to discount the experiences of those UKIP supporters who do live in diverse neighbourhoods; but UKIP has exploited those experiences and sold them to people who have less contact with immigrants.

Which is why the findings of this latest poll are alarming. They show that people are subscribing to UKIP’s xenophobic views based on false information, and that UKIP’s inflated claims are being digested. Remember, this is not a slight overestimation; this is a significant swathe of the population who think there are twice as many immigrants as there are.

UKIP have a responsibility to present their policies against a background of fact, not speculation.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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