Polling on immigration: always query the questions themselves


8:59 am - August 14th 2013

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by Christine Quigley

Yesterday, YouGov published the results of its survey into attitudes towards the Home Office’s recent “Go Home” poster campaign, known disaffectionately in these parts as the #racistvan. The poll’s results weren’t particularly surprising; Conservative and UKIP voters tended to be strongly in favour, Labour and Lib Dem voters were more evenly split, with more agreeing the campaign was racist than not. There was a bit of regional variation, with Londoners less in favour of the Home Office’s actions than other parts of the country, and variation by age, with older people somewhat more likely to support it than younger people. So far, so unsurprising.

I would have liked to see more probing of the data, particularly breaking it down by ethnic group and by nationality or country of birth. I would put good money on the supposition that many people (not all!) from minority ethnic groups, the majority of first- and second-generation immigrants and the bulk of Britons born abroad would be significantly more concerned about the Home Office campaign than the rest of the population. It would be useful to hear the voices of those whose families and friends the campaign is aimed at more strongly. Unfortunately, given the comparatively small sample size of 1660 (fuelled by the need for current information on public attitudes), it’s unlikely that the breakdowns suggested above would yield statistically significant results in each region. Let’s hope someone commissions a more in-depth survey soon.

For me, the glaring omission from this polling was the total focus on the poster campaign, rather than the accompanying stop-and-search patrols by the UK Border Agency at London Tube stations, where the reported experiences of those passing through strongly suggested a concerning degree of racial profiling. Again, I suspect that the overall support for the poster campaign would not extend as strongly to threatening patrols interrupting people’s daily business. It’s one thing to pass by a campaign poster – unless you live under a rock, you’ll passively consume hundreds of advertising posters daily. You may not even have noticed these unless they had a particular personal or community resonance (by everette devan). It’s really quite another to e on your way to work and for a burly bloke to stop you and demand you prove your right to remain in the country. It’s all a bit Big Brother; it’s really not very British.

So the right’s declaration that this poll vindicates the Home Office’s strategy overall may not be wholly accurate. But even before reading it, the results of the poll were fairly predictable. Of course people are going to support initiatives to tackle illegal immigration when they’re bombarded by constant messaging from the overwhelmingly right-wing media that immigration is a major problem and a drain on society. It’s the rational response to the information people are receiving.

So the left faces a real challenge; to engage the general public in a much more nuanced debate about migration, acknowledging people’s concerns whole pointing out that there’s a bigger picture. As a Labour Party activist, I frequently have conversations on the doorstep where voters tell me about their concerns about ‘the immigrants’, but have positive feelings about their personal interactions with immigrants; their care workers, the local shopkeeper, their children’s friends. These conversations can’t just happen on individuals’ doorsteps, they need to happen nationally too.

The left needs to present the facts about our economy’s need for inward migration without patronising people or dismissing outright the fears that people have as racism. The fears are real, even if they’re based on information that’s inaccurate or just plain wrong. As I blogged yesterday, the Labour Party in particular shouldn’t accept the right-wing narrative on immigration but should advance a fact-based alternative.

The YouGov poll isn’t evidence that lefties were wrong to oppose the racist vans; far from it. Instead it’s evidence that we have to change the debate.

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Reader comments


1. Man On Clapham Omnibus

‘The left needs to present the facts about our economy’s need for inward migration without patronising people or dismissing outright the fears that people have as racism’

I couldn’t agree more and I too would like to look at the raw data for systematic bias.The problem with both the study and the quote above are they are both abstractions of reality and as such can lead to the misapplication of action /observations.

What you are trying to suggest in your quote is to match rationality ie ‘ the left needs to presents facts’ with irrationally ‘fears people have’.

Ever tried rationalising with irrational people.Add to that the herd mentality.
IMO you might as well try to stop a rampaging herd of elephants. Fear like anger has to be left to burn itself out and like anger there will be baseless objectification of groups and individuals co-opted by way of support.

We used to be in Bedlam but now I fear we are in Salem.

When the ‘Ape Confused by Language’ tries to deny animal imperatives (differencism) with perverse cerebral overlay, you get a confused mess. Governance requires extreme wisdom in its practitioners, we have extreme cleverness of a Machiavellian bent. The current ethos is unsustainable.
SPOIL PARTY GAMES.

The headline reads to me like ”Spin the spin”.
This issue is just another where a country is just split down the middle on what they think about something. Maybe like in Egypt where the population is divided about how they want to be governed. More religious or more secular and liberal.

The protests about the racist van have been a bit pathetic and manufactured IMO. But the van posters were pretty crass and stupid too. It sounds like the people opposed to this would resent anything the government did that actually clamped down on illegal immigration.
Protests against detention centres are proof of this.
Ilegal immigrants can hide openly in the wider community with little chance of being caught going about their day to day business. Maybe that’s one of the draws of this country. People are sitting in Calais trying to smuggle themselves from France becuse they know they are not asked for their ID here like in other EU countries.
As for stop and question: it’s not very British, but I can’t say I’m completely against it. I have to admit to sometimes feeling just the tiniest bit of annoyance at some of the unpoliced ”bedsitland” – where who knows what goes on. The kinds of street life you can see in the most transient of urban areas. Like all the little booths that have sprung up outside shops with Afghans selling phone cards – and a parallel world going on right under your nose that you will be completely ignorant of if you are not in the know. The world into which those young men in Calais slip into if they manage to get across the Channel.
The system for dealing with this broke down several years ago. A corrective measure will unfortunately have to be more raids and demands that people prove their identity.
Unless you couldn’t care less and think that anyone can just come and live here.
That is a legitimate point of view as well of course.

It’s really quite another to be on your way to work and for a burly bloke to stop you and demand you prove your right to remain in the country. It’s all a bit Big Brother; it’s really not very British.

Note that, one minute, our liberals will insist that it’s because immigrants are so “diverse”–i.e., not British–that immigration is a good almost without qualification.

Next minute, when someone claims that the government should enforce its own laws against illegal immigrants, they state with straight faces that such a course of action “wouldn’t be very British”.

“The left needs to present the facts about our economy’s need for inward migration without patronising people or dismissing outright the fears that people have as racism. The fears are real, even if they’re based on information that’s inaccurate or just plain wrong.”

So thousands of Romanians coming to the UK is now ‘inward investment’?

Anyway, these studies have been done. Please see 2007 House of Lords Report: Economic Impact of Immigration.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1583500/Limit-immigration-warns-House-of-Lords.html

The left are still trying to keep Tony Blairs immigration dream of creating a multicultural nation alive when the whole experiment has completely & utterly failed.

The British nation also knows that Labours immigration “mistake” wasn’t a mistake at all, it was a deliberate, nasty attempt by Tony Blair to erase English identity & rub the rights nose in diversity.

Blair is lucky I don’t run this country, because he’d be hanging from a tree for what he has done to us English with his despicable behavior.

BUT STILL the left want all the dregs from around the world to come to this once great country as to continue to eradicate those terrible English people & their racist ways.

Shame really, because with a good,decent,fair immigration policy people like me wouldn’t be made at immigrants but thankful for their help, but it’s too late for that now & it’s a fight to the death with the left to get my country back.

Labour threw open Britain’s borders to mass immigration to help socially engineer a “truly multicultural” country, a former Government adviser has revealed.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/6418456/Labour-wanted-mass-immigration-to-make-UK-more-multicultural-says-former-adviser.html

7. Man On Clapham Omnibus

6. Terry B

nice try but all the important bits are in quotes which reading between the lines invalidates the article.These journalists eh, don’t they just love to fill their column inches with baloney.

You should be nicer to trees btw ,they are a dying breed unlike some crooks.

vimothy

Note that, one minute, our liberals will insist that it’s because immigrants are so “diverse”–i.e., not British–that immigration is a good almost without qualification.

I suspect the argument is more liable to be that diversity is British. (Which is true, to some extent, but that is an extremely meaningful “to some extent”.)

Mr Six,

I suspect the argument is more liable to be that diversity is British

That’s one of a pair of mutually contradictory liberal ideas about what being British means, which I described in the comment above.

The other is that British-ness is associated with everything that is too Christian, too white, too Western, too old, too boring, too imperialist, too oppressive and too hideous about this country to be allowed to remain; consequently it must all be overcome, wherein we get a new Britain that is more diverse, multicultural, secular, vibrant, new, “urban”, “cool”, etc, etc.

Note that, one minute, our liberals will insist that it’s because immigrants are so “diverse”–i.e., not British–that immigration is a good almost without qualification.

Next minute, when someone claims that the government should enforce its own laws against illegal immigrants, they state with straight faces that such a course of action “wouldn’t be very British”.

Stop and question on the basis of skin colour – if that is what happened – is in fact against the law.

AFAIK few object to intelligence-led ‘raids’ and stops based on reasonable suspicion. It is the perception that the stops were based on skin colour that many people found objectionable, and not very British.


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