Do 83% of Lib Dem voters want lower immigration?

by Stephen Tall on September 9, 2008

Yesterday saw the launch of a paper by Labour MP Frank Field and Conservative MP Nicholas Soames called Balanced Migration: a new approach to immigration. The duo worked with the anti-immigration campaign group Migrationwatch, so no prizes for guessing that they urged much lower levels of immigration; or ‘balanced migration’ as they have re-branded it.

They commissioned the polling company YouGov to ask a couple of questions, including this one:

The latest migration figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 600,000 people immigrated to the UK in the year leading up to June 2007, whereas 400,000 people emigrated from (i.e. left) the UK, leaving a net inflow of 200,000 people. It has been suggested the level of immigration to Britain should be brought down to the level of emigration from Britain. Do you think such a policy would mean that the level of immigration to Britain would be…

* Too high – there should be less immigration than emigration – 57% of all voters; 40% of Lib Dem voters;
* Too low – there should be more immigration than emigration – 5% of all voters; 7% of Lib Dem voters;
* About right – 28% of all voters; 43% of Lib Dem voters;
* Don’t know – 10% of all voters; 9% of Lib Dem voters.

These results prompted Migrationwatch and Messrs Field and Soames to state baldly: “83 per cent of Liberal Democrats want to see much lower immigration” [adding together the ‘Too high’ and ‘About right’ figures]. Which is accurate enough; though, of course, missing from the innocuous-sounding poll wording was any suggestion of the measures which would be needed to bring about such a policy of ‘balanced migration’. For example, would YouGov had got a different answer if they had asked:

If after four years of skilled labour, contributing to the British economy and his local community, a tax-paying non-EU worker was told by the authorities he had to go home because the UK had reached its annual cap of economic migrants would you support his/her forced expulsion?

Strange enough, YouGov didn’t pose the question…