Anti-immigrant feeling in Britain is on the rise as more than half want cut in numbers, according to major new research

Survey suggests that attitudes were hardening even before Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants hit the news

Deputy Political Editor

Hostility to the current scale of immigration is increasing among the public, with more than half of the electorate wanting a heavy cut in numbers of foreigners allowed to settle in Britain, research disclosed last night.

New findings from the British Social Attitudes survey suggest the mood was hardening even before immigration soared up the political agenda with the lifting of transitional controls on Romanian and Bulgarian workers.

The survey found 77 per cent of people supported a reduction in immigration levels. That comprised 56 per cent who wanted it cut by “a lot” – the highest number on record – and another 21 per cent who wanted it reduced a little.

Numbers backing a substantial cut in immigration have risen from 39 per cent in 1995 and 49 per cent a decade ago.

However, despite claims that influxes of newcomers will depress wages and increase unemployment, the research also found the proportion who believed immigration was bad for the economy had dropped from 52 per cent in 2011 to 47 per cent last year. 31 per cent said migration had boosted the economy.

Read more:

Pragmatic public wants immigration mended, not ended

Bucharest to London: On the bus with the Romanians taking the 52-hour ride in search of a new life in Britain

34 per cent said they thought immigration enriched Britain’s cultural life, compared with 45 per cent who took the opposite view.

The results of the survey, which is conducted by NatCen Social Research, were released for the BBC2 programme, The Truth About Immigration, which is broadcast tonight.

It also underlined how the issue of immigration is socially and politically divisive. More than half (52 per cent) of Conservative supporters believe British culture is undermined by immigration compared with just 20 per cent of Liberal Democrat voters.

Meanwhile, 40 per cent of Labour supporters think it is bad for the economy with 36 per cent saying it has been beneficial.

The most positive views are expressed by graduates, 60 per cent of whom think immigration is good for the economy, and the highest paid, 48 per cent of whom view it as beneficial.

Penny Young, the chief executive of NatCen Social Research, said “These findings highlight the complexity of this issue for politicians facing two elections in 18 months and with limited options if they want to attempt to reduce migration from Europe.

“The public broadly agrees immigration is too high, but there are stark social divisions over the economic and cultural benefits of immigration.”

In tonight’s programme, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, says: “I think the problem in the past has been that there’s been this general assumption immigration was always good for the economy.

“I don’t think people have looked at it sufficiently closely to be able to recognise the impact it has on members of the public.”

Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, calls for “a more calm, measured debate and sensible response to people’s concerns”.

Meanwhile Poland’s foreign minister has hit out at David Cameron’s plans to strip child benefit payments from European Union migrants who have left their offspring in their home country.

Radoslaw Sikorski said there had been no need for him to “stigmatise” Poles by singling out his country’s citizens in comments at the weekend.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own