Immigration still high on voters’ minds

Immigration is still high in voters’ minds despite the financial crisis, a poll has shown.

Fifty-four per cent of users said they were very likely to vote for a party based on their immigration policy, with eight per cent quite likely to vote on that basis.

Thirty-one per cent said they were quite unlikely or very unlikely to vote solely on immigration policy.

Asked if there was too much immigration to the UK, 80 per cent of users answered ‘yes’.

The poll, timed for release on international migrant day, shows predictions of immigration dropping down the political agenda to be problematic.

Some party insiders thought immigration – which dominated the 2005 general election – would hold less importance during the first stage of the financial crisis, although there were dark warnings of it retuning in an unpleasant form once recession was in full swing.

Labour’s new immigration minister, Phil Woolas, was brought in during the recent Cabinet reshuffle to represent a firm image on the issue.

He began by making several inflammatory statements which alienated liberal Labour supporters.

One of his comments described the lawyers and refugee support groups which help failed asylum seekers launch legal appeals as “an industry”.

This statement caused outrage among campaigners, church leaders and the legal profession, but appears to have widespread public support.

Asked by if Mr Woolas was right to make the statement, 75 per cent said he was.

However, the comments did not seem to make people more likely to vote Labour. Only five per cent of users said the comments would drive them to support Labour, 30 per cent said it would make them less likely to vote Labour and 65 per cent said it would not change how they vote.

There was considerably more support for the Conservatives’ immigration policy, who appear to safely own the issue in today’s poll.

David Cameron has stated he wants to end the inflammatory language used by Labour but impose stricter restrictions on entry, including a cap on the numbers coming in per year.

Sixty per cent of users said the cap was a ‘sensible’ policy and 25 per cent said it would be popular. Only 15 per cent thought it was unethical.

Sixty five per cent thought the Tories had the best immigration policy. Fifteen voted for the Liberal Democrats and ten per cent for Labour.

The Home Office is currently juggling concerns about an influx of immigrants from Zimbabwe following the cholera epidemic there. The home secretary believes the UK cannot handle that number of immigrants, but officials in the Foreign Office are understood to want Ms Smith to be more generous.