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The immigration divide: Londoners and Scots are less supportive of cuts to immigration than people in the Midlands and Wales

28 Nov 2011

Londoners and Scots are less likely to support reductions to immigration than people in the Midlands and Wales, new research by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory shows.

In its latest commentary, The Variations Enigma, The Migration Observatory highlights the regional findings of our recent public opinion survey, undertaken with Ipsos MORI, which suggest that there may not be a direct link between the scale of immigration to an area and public support for cuts to immigration.

While most areas of the country have majority support for cuts to immigration, London – which has the highest migrant population and highest population density in the UK – does not have a clear majority in favour of cuts to immigration, with only 46% of respondents agreeing that immigration needed to be reduced. (See full report for detail on statistical significance and margins of error).

The survey also showed that Londoners who identified themselves as white British-born British-nationals were also significantly less likely to support cuts to immigration than white British respondents elsewhere in the country. This suggests that London’s lower support for cuts to immigration is not exclusively the result of the high migrant population in the capital.

Scotland – which has the lowest population density on the UK mainland and, unlike London, proportionately small net migration – also has considerably lower support for cutting immigration than other parts of the country, and has the highest support for increasing immigration “a lot”.

Dr Scott Blinder, the Migration Observatory’s public opinion specialist, who designed the research said: “If you look at the UK as a whole, British people are overwhelmingly supportive of cuts to immigration, but this masks a raft of notable variations around the country. London and Scotland have lower levels of opposition to immigration than the Midlands and Wales, but this doesn’t seem to be clearly related to the number of migrants in any of these places.”

The Variations Enigma also identifies that during the 1960s and 70s, when immigration to the UK was considerably lower than it is now, large majorities of the public still viewed immigration levels as too high.

Dr Blinder added: “This raises an interesting question: if the Government does manage to reduce net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’ does that mean that support for cuts to immigration will fall correspondingly? The evidence collected since the 1990s only deals with periods of long-term increases in net migration, so it is hard to say for sure – but our research suggests it is far from certain.”


For further information contact

Rob McNeil, Senior Media Analyst, The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford. e: robert.mcneil@compas.ox.ac.uk; tel: 01865 274568; Mob: 07500 970081

Notes for Editors

To read The Variations Enigma visit:


  • Based at the ESRC Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford, the Migration Observatory provides independent, authoritative, evidence-based analysis of data on migration and migrants in the UK, to inform media, public and policy debates, and to generate high quality research on international migration and public policy issues. The Observatory’s analysis involves experts from a wide range of disciplines and departments at the University of Oxford.
  • The Migration Observatory is funded by: Unbound Philanthropy; the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and the Barrow Cadbury Trust.
  • The Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford conducts high quality research in order to develop theory and knowledge, inform policy-making and public debate, and engage users of research within the field of migration. For further detail see the COMPAS website: www.compas.ox.ac.uk/. 
  • COMPAS is core funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) www.esrc.ac.uk/

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