Read All About It! – UK public thinks immigration hurts country
A poll in the UK commissioned by Lord Ashcroft, the former deputy-chairman of the Conservative party, has discovered that 6 in 10 people believe immigration has resulted in more disadvantages than advantages for the country. Only one in six thought the opposite. Well: surprise, surprise …!
For me, what is most striking about the results is that the 6 in 10 proportion wasn’t higher. We are, after all, regularly bombarded by sensationalist headlines and scare stories in the UK media about how our tiny country is being overwhelmed by mass migration. The well-researched, carefully analysed and peer-reviewed studies by university professors and others about the true economic and social impacts of immigration are given little airtime or press coverage.
The sad fact is (as this poll illustrates in the detail of its report) that even if we did have the true figures presented to us more clearly and conscientiously, we would not necessarily believe them. Whatever our view is of the benefits or otherwise of immigration, it is unlikely to be modified by the latest report or set of calculations, especially if they are announced by a politician. On this particular topic we have become a nation of sceptics.
So, how did we get here …?
The full details of the Lord Ashcroft research can be found at www.LordAshcroftPolls.com. Writing in The Sunday Times on September 1st, Michael Ashcroft himself concludes that it has been a failure by UK politicians over many years that is to blame: “One thing that unites people with different views about immigration,” Ashcroft writes, “is their conviction that politicians have handled it badly: whether because they are incompetent, fail to listen, are afraid to be accused of racism, or are too weak to set out the advantages of immigration in the face of public opposition.”
So, it is all the fault of the politicians then. Nothing to do with the media.
What disappoints me most about the Ashcroft research and report is that a glorious opportunity has been missed. As well as asking participants WHAT they thought about immigration, the pollsters could also have asked WHY they had these opinions: from where are they deriving their views? The study involved over 20,000 people – enough to enable Lord Ashcroft and his team to identify seven different ‘segments’ of opinion. It would have been fascinating to learn how these various segments had been influenced and guided towards their views by the media.
In fact, the media gets a mention only once in the report, in one of the published anecdotes:
“The media are whipping up a lot of it. They will hone in on one particular case where someone’s got a five bedroom house in a wonderful area, which are isolated cases.”
The seven segments of opinion about migration identified in the study have been labelled: Universal Hostility, Cultural Concerns, Competing for Jobs, Fighting for Entitlements, Comfortable Pragmatists, Urban Harmony, and Militantly Multicultural, covering the spectrum from unashamedly negative to ‘rose-tinted glasses’ positive.
What a pity that we don’t have the data to test whether there is any correlation between these segments and the newspapers they are influenced by on a regular basis. What interesting reading that would have made!
[New eBook ‘Retribution’, dealing with press intrusion and phone hacking, now available http://viewBook.at/Retribution. Only £1.99/$2.99.]