Immigration Immigration Immigration

This map tells us much about the current mood in the country, why Rishi Sunak and the Tories are still in dire trouble ahead of a looming election, and why much of Westminster remains firmly adrift from millions of people outside the M25.

The map, based on brand new research, shows what British people think about the one issue that is currently dominating Westminster and Fleet Street as a series of crunch votes play out this week —immigration.

It shows the share of constituencies where a majority of people support tighter controls on migration and where, instead, a majority of people want to increase immigration and relax these controls. Take a look:

 

Regular subscribers won’t be surprised, of course. Much of this confirms what we’ve been discussing and debating in this Substack community for months —about how, especially on these cultural and identity issues, today’s ruling class has become dangerously out-of-touch with much of the rest of the country.

And the sheer scale of this enormous gulf between the rulers and the ruled, between the elites and masses, is further reflected in five other remarkable statistics from the research which throw light on just how serious this divide has become and why, in my view, it looks set to continue to upend our politics and society.

  1. Public perceptions of net migration are significantly out of kilter with reality. When voters were asked to give their estimate of current levels of net migration, the average response was 70,000. The actual level of net migration when they were asked was more than 740,000. This suggests most people are completely unaware of the true scale of immigration and the liberalisation of policy that has taken place under the post-Brexit Conservative governments. Which raises the question: how will they react when they do become aware? TAP – Tilbrook of Teds believes immigartion is far higher than the admitted figures – up to 3 million legally entering in 12 months.
  2. Across every single political and demographic group, a majority of people said immigration is too high — including among 18-24 year old Zoomers from Generation-Z, university degree holders, Remain voters, and Londoners. Viewing current immigration levels as being “too high” is now what political scientists call a “valence issue” —one that basically everybody agrees on except a small minority of typically urban liberal graduates who happen to dominate the institutions.
  3. Almost 9 in 10 —88%— of parliamentary constituencies have a preference for both lower immigration and tighter controls. The preference for higher immigration is concentrated in only a few areas — mostly cities. Of the 75 seats where people prefer higher immigration and relaxed controls, most (52) are in London. The five seats most supportive of reductions are Clacton, Louth and Horncastle, Bridlington and The Wolds, Staffordshire Moorlands, and Cannock Chase. The five most supportive of relaxation are Bristol Central, Hackney South and Shoreditch, Bethnal Green and Stepney, Bermondsey and Old Southwark, and Lewisham North. But, once again, the latter are vastly outnumbered.
  4. “Pro-immigration” activists do not have geography on their side. Although 26% of Brits want immigration increased and controls relaxed, this is only a majority view in 12% of seats in a first-past-the-post system. Parliamentary arithmetic means these immigration-sceptic constituencies will make up a majority of any governing party’s coalition (including a Labour government). The concerns of voters in these seats cannot be ignored. This, too, is why the Brexit vote was more geographically efficient than the Remain vote. Liberals routinely lose sight of how their views do not translate well onto a majoritarian, first-past-the-post election map which, ultimately, prioritises ‘small c’ conservative views.
  5. Conservative Party voters are becoming more, not less, worried about immigration over time. Between 2011 and 2020, Conservatives were consistently 20-30 percentage points more likely to cite immigration as a top issue than Labour voters. Since 2020, that gap has grown to 50 points. And most of the people who have abandoned the Conservative Party for apathy, saying they don’t know who to vote for at the next election, are especially likely to be sceptical of immigration. Consistent with what I said last week, 86% of these apathetic Tories see immigration as undermining the social life of communities, 62% believe countries with similar cultures to Britain should be prioritised, most want more controls on immigration and are also more likely than current Conservative voters to think the government has no control over illegal Channel crossings. In other words, this issue is now fundamentally central to both retaining current Conservative voters and winning back disaffected 2019 Tories, which is very problematic for the party given that most of its MPs lean further to the cultural left than their new, post-Brexit, post-Boris voters.
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