Increasing public support for immigration: The Week in Polls #3

Welcome to the third of what seems to be becoming a regular series, rounding up the political opinion polling from the last week.

We’ve had five national voting intention polls with fieldwork in the last week, putting the Conservatives on 33-34%, Labour on 37-39%, the Lib Dems on 11-12% and the Greens on 3-7%. There are first signs of a boost for the Lib Dems from the May elections, with the party up in four of those polls and unchanged in the fifth. All movements within the margin of error, but seeing them across different pollsters starts to make them look real.

Most people think Keir Starmer broke lockdown rules over beergate but also overall rate him more favourably than they did thanks to what he may have done and how he’s reacted, while they view Boris Johnson less favourably.

The latest Times Radio focus group was held in Tiverton and Honiton, with Conservative swing voters. It didn’t make for happy listening for Conservatives:

In a poll finding that caused much mirth, Savanta found 20% of people claiming to have heard of a (fictional) ‘hikegate’ scandal involving Ed Davey going for a walk during lockdown. But… respondents were softened up with two genuine questions first (about Johnson and Starmer) and of course people don’t take much time over answering each question. Softening people up with some truth first and slipping then quickly slipping the dodgy move past you is also just what con artists do. So this is the sort of question that says as much about how to get misleading answers from the public as it does about the public’s knowledge if given a fair chance.

Labour continues to score much improved ratings on the economy compared with the Conservatives than it has done for a long time. Which is particularly important as voters view the cost of living crisis as more important than partygate and beergate.

However, while almost half think government doing a bad job running the country, just three in ten think Labour would do a better job.

On approval ratings, Opinium included Ed Davey in its questions once more:

Meanwhile, Redfield & Wilton found Starmer is continuing to bobble around near zero net ratings, but well above Rishi Sunak, whose ratings are now consistently worse than Starmer’s, and also even further above Boris Johnson. The pollsters also asked about the impact of Brexit:

Finally on party politics, despite what much political punditry said, voters have viewed Labour – and the Liberal Democrats – as doing well in the May local elections.

Away from parties and their leaders, the Financial Times‘s John Burn-Murdoch has been looking at public attitudes towards immigration. In an excellent Twitter thread. Since the Brexit referendum, concerns about immigration have fallen even though immigration numbers have risen. (Previously the two had moved in tandem, with concerns rising and immigration numbers rose and falling when they fell.) There are a trio of explanations, with plenty of debate to be had over their relative importance:

  1. The ‘Take Back Control’ argument – that people are happy with high numbers of immigrants if those high numbers are the result of decisions under the control of the British government;
  2. The ‘immigrants keep the NHS going’ argument – with increasing public appreciation showing through in the polls for the positive impact immigrants have, especially with the public now seeing immigrants as good for the NHS (providing staff) rather than as bad for the NHS (adding to waiting times etc.); and
  3. Tabloid media coverage of immigration has dropped away, and what coverage there is has focused particularly on the relatively specific Channel-crossings story – repeating previous trends of concerns over immigration rising and falling in line with media coverage. (There’s a related debate about the extent to which such media coverage changes the views of the audience or reflects the views of the audience.)

Meanwhile, polling from Survation found that 58% of people in Scotland believe the UK should keep Trident and that 82% ranked UK membership of the G7, NATO and the UN Security Council as “important”.

Only 28% think Brexit is “done”. There is also strong support in the Red Wall for a windfall tax on energy companies and Britons are split on whether or not voting should be compulsory.

NOW AVAILABLE: Polling Unpacked: the history, uses and abuses of political opinion polls which, according to the Sunday Times, is “Essential reading for anyone seeking to understand modern politics … comprehensive yet surprisingly fun”.

The Week in Polls

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