NHS spending: the only promise that beats immigration curbs?

William JordanUS Elections Editor
November 07, 2014, 11:12 AM GMT+0

Tax cuts, an EU referendum, a minimum wage increase – voters would choose curbs on immigration over all of these. Not so for NHS spending

Immigration is back on top of the agenda as UKIP make gains and voters cite the issue as the most important to them. It is an issue on which neither the Tories nor Labour now have the decisive edge.

In order to test the limits of how strongly people feel about this issue, YouGov experimented with a survey that asked voters to choose between a reduction in immigration to Britain and some of the main policy offerings made by Labour and the Conservatives. Would anything be a more potent offer than curbing immigration?

It turns out voters would choose a reduction in immigration over tax cuts, a minimum wage increase and holding a referendum on Britain’s EU membership – but most would choose an increase in NHS spending over a cut to immigration.

Voters group into familiar coalitions on these questions. Labour and Lib Dem voters generally lean towards any of the non-immigration options, except in the case of an EU referendum, where both groups tend to prefer a reduction in immigration (but a significant minority of Labour and Lib Dems also picked "neither" on this option). Conversely, this is the one case where UKIP and Conservative voters are more conflicted. Conservatives lean only narrowly towards the immigration cut (48-45%), while UKIP voters go decisively for the referendum (36-62%).

On one hand, this might be a surprising result overall. YouGov regularly asks voters which issues are the most important issues facing the country, and immigration now regularly comes out on top, even over the economy – and health. On the other hand, the same survey also asks voters which are the most important issues facing themselves and their family, and here, ‘health’ now comes in just behind the economy and well ahead of immigration.

Of course, curbing immigration is not mutually exclusive with most other policies, and in fact Labour and the Conservatives have both promised some form of immigration cut. But the result confirms the potency of this issue over some more conventionally appealing offers such as tax cuts.

PA image

See the full results