Monday, March 02, 2009

Immigration attitudes

A few days ago a survey came out proclaiming that voters thought the number one priority for any incoming Tory government should be to cut immigration. You can read the stats (pdf) direct or, if you just want to refer to the numbers I'm about to talk about I've created a smaller jpg just for those. Even without the Telegraph mediating the figures it doesn't make for happy reading, not for me anyway.

Mind you, according to the Telegraph, even Jesus flirted with racism although I'm not sure if they meant that showed bigotry was alright or that we should be picketing harvest festival - typical lack of clarity.

I want to pull apart some of these stats for a moment to have a closer look at the demographic Phil Woolas wants to pander to with his immigration clampdown propaganda. Specifically I want to compare it with the numbers who thought tackling climate change should be a priority, sadly a far smaller proportion of society at large.

If we look at the figures broken down by region the most striking fact is that there is little difference across the country. Scotland is the most welcoming to immigrants and the region with the lowest figure on climate change is the region that also wants to cut immigration the most - the Midlands and Wales.

It's not a massive surprise that the two areas in England that return members of the European Parliament for the Green Party score well on climate change attitudes. So this may seem like an unexciting statistic - but personally I think the absence of difference between areas is quite surprising considering that these areas do have quite significantly different attitudes to politics more generally.

Next if we look at attitudes by age we can confirm an old adage that as people age they move to the right. Alternative we might be looking at social shifts with the young more integrated and more aware of the risks to the climate that we currently face.

Whichever is the case it's clear that there is both an inverse correlation between caring about the climate and fretting over the level of immigration. It's a correlation we see in the regional breakdown - but far more clearly in the case of age.

Perhaps it would be best expressed by saying that the more you care about global issues the more welcoming you are likely to be to those from other places around the world.

History, or rather YouGov, does not record what the 2% of people who intend to vote Green thought of immigration. However, they do have a breakdown for the voters of the three main political parties. Again we can see another suspicion confirmed, that the old idea that you had Tories to the right, Labour to the left and the Liberals in the middle is simply no longer true.

Whilst Tory voters were the least concerned about climate change and the most concerned about foreigners coming in and moving things about with their sticky foreign fingers it was the Lib Dem voters who were roughly three times as concerned about the climate and half as worried about migrants as Tory voters. It's the Labour voters who sit in between the two parties, at least on these issues.

All mildly interesting I think.

The most interesting set of figures I'd like to see, which unfortunately do not as yet exist, is the the correlation between how much people want to cut immigration and how many immigrants they think are actually living in the country now. My completely unevidence based assertion would be that those who think there are more immigrants than there really are will be more likely to think there should be less of them. YouGov - get to it!

Immigration and the rights of migrants is clearly an issue that the left is going to have to address in a very muscular way over the coming couple of years seeking not just to combat the far right but shift ordinary opinion on the merits of our brothers and sisters who were born in other lands.

As a small piece of evidence to show that racism is a growing trend in the most unexpected places this video of a recent demonstration is instructive where we are treated to workers shouting "foreigners out" as part of their dispute (hat tip Lenin). On the other side of it here is Billy Bragg talking about the tension between economic struggle and nationalism drawing his own particualr conclusions.

For me the main danger is not organisations like the BNP but that we might neglect the battle of ideas in wider society. It isn't the BNP creating a pool of racism, this would be giving that small and incompetent organisation far too much credit. It simply feeds off of a pool of pre-existing bigotries. It's that pool that we must seek to drain.


weggis said...

What is the breakdown of the "Immigration" figures between "white working class" and settled Immigrants as opposed to transient Immigrants?

Jim Jay said...

Another interesting stat that yougov didn't explore.