With less than a year to go until Brexit day in 2019, Change Britain commissioned BMG Research to poll the public on the following question:
“After we leave the EU the UK Government will be in control of our immigration policy. Which of the following would you yourself prefer?
An immigration system which has fewer restrictions on migrants coming to live and work in the UK from EU countries and more restrictions on migrants coming to live and work in the UK from non-EU countries
An immigration system that applies the same restrictions on everyone coming to live and work in the UK, regardless of whether they come from EU countries or non-EU countries”
Almost two-thirds of respondents said that they prefer an immigration system that applies the same restrictions on everyone…
A previous BMG poll for Change Britain suggested that the notion of ‘taking back control’, with specific reference to immigration and laws, was still appealing.
In this sense, the new poll reveals more specifically that the public want to see a change to the current immigration policy: 62% of respondents favour “an immigration system that applies the same restrictions on everyone coming to live and work in the UK, regardless of whether they come from EU countries or non-EU countries”; whilst 21% would rather have an immigration system with “fewer restrictions on migrants coming to live and work in the UK from EU countries”.
The same divisions that were observed by pollsters during the EU referendum period can still be perceived two years later when looking at this question. Younger people are more likely to support fewer restrictions on EU migrants than older people.
The same holds true for supporting the equitable restrictions on immigration between EU residents and non-EU residents, with older generations generally more in favour of equity than the young.
A gap is also noticeable when considering the levels of education of respondents: 29% of those who have a university degree support the application of fewer restrictions on EU nationals, while the proportion in support of this among those who don’t have a degree (17%) or the unqualified (16%) are much lower.
However, it is worth noting that in-spite of these trends, a clear majority of all groups mentioned above favour the application of equitable restrictions to EU residents and non-EU residents.
Interestingly, a majority of all party supporters, including Labour (56%) and the Greens (62%), favour applying the same restrictions, even though these parties are said to have campaigned to Remain in the EU. The Green party, in particularly, has publicly defended free movement with EU nations even after the referendum.
On the other hand, and perhaps unsurprisingly, those who voted Leave in the 2016 EU referendum are more likely to support the immigration restrictions that are equitable (78%) than those who voted Remain (58%). Similarly, Remainers are more likely to support fewer restrictions on EU nationals than Leave voters (25% vs. 14% respectively).
How the results should be interpreted…
Although the poll suggests that most people support “an immigration system that applies the same restrictions on everyone coming to live and work in the UK, regardless of whether they come from EU countries or non-EU countries”; it should not be used as evidence for how people feel about immigration in the UK.
Clearly the question wording is presented in a way that seeks to understand whether fewer restrictions on EU migrants is preferable to a system that does not preference EU residents. It does not present an alternative where there is a lean towards migrants from non-EU countries (though arguably this is hypothetical, and the two options presented are valid options that are currently being debated).
Respondents will understand this as they read the question, and we interpret the results as insightful of the role of fairness alone.
This means that the results should be used principally for analysis of key sub-groups and definitely not out of the specific context of the question. In this instance, examining the responses by Leave voters and Remain voters as well as by age group and qualification levels or party support. It is interesting that over two thirds of Remain voters agree with the statement about supporting the same restrictions on EU and non-EU nationals, and it is also interesting that a majority of supporters of all parties also favour having the same restrictions in place, despite the fact that the Labour party or the Greens campaigned for Remain.
Methodology, fieldwork dates, and a full breakdown of these results can be found here.
For a more detailed breakdown of results from this poll, or any other results from our polling series, please get in touch by email or phone.
0121 333 6006
Sara Suarez – Research Executive
Dr. Michael Turner – Research Director & Head of Polling