Sentiments towards people coming to work in the United Kingdom have warmed since 2015, according to data collected by Ipsos. The research institute’s data tracker shows that there has been a notable shift since the run up to the 2015 general election, which paved the way to the Brexit referendum result, when 37 percent of UK respondents said they felt positive about the impacts of immigration on Britain, versus a more recent wave of the poll in 2022, when 46 percent felt the same way.
When asked more specifically about whether the UK needs an increase or decrease in workers from abroad in different professions, a more nuanced picture emerged. With the ongoing crisis of a struggling NHS, perhaps it’s not surprising that this was particularly true of healthcare, where more than half of respondents (54 percent) in 2022 wanted to see an increase in the numbers of migrant doctors and nurses, as well as 45 percent of respondents wanting to see more care home workers.
Numbers were similarly high (45 percent) for those wanting more seasonal fruit and vegetable pickers to come from abroad, while a third of respondents also supported an increase of workers (34 percent) in the hospitality and construction (32 percent) sectors. Meanwhile, respondents saw less of a need for more bankers.
According to this data, only a small minority of the public wanted to see a decrease in the number of migrant workers in most sectors. In terms of people coming to join their spouse or partner who already live in the UK, two thirds of respondents were either happy with the status quo or would welcome more people to come, while only 22 percent wanted to see a decrease.
Commenting on the study’s findings, Gideon Skinner, Research Director at Ipsos, said that public attitudes are more complex on immigration than many might expect. “While there is little demand for increases in immigration overall, there is support for allowing more workers across a range of sectors where the public sees a need,” he said. “This regular tracking research helps us understand these views and how they are changing – as well as highlighting misperceptions among the public themselves. In particular, most people think their fellow citizens have become more negative towards immigration over the last few years but in reality attitudes have become more positive since before the Brexit referendum.”
In a separate Ipsos poll, researchers found that immigration fluctuated in terms of whether it was considered an “important issue” for UK voters in recent months, hitting 11 percent in October, 21 percent in November and 15 percent in December. Analysts explain that in December this view was overwhelmingly among Conservative voters (25 percent) and older UK adults (24 percent of those aged 65+).