British voters are content with the level of immigration when it comes to foreign students and skilled workers - and a third of Britons think foreign-born workers are more hard-working than workers born here
In May the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported that net migration had fallen “by a third”, or by about 80,000 people, in the 12 months to September 2012. The figures also showed that most of the change came from a drop of 56,000 in the number of people coming to study at British universities, although at 190,000 arrivals over the course of the year, foreign students were still the largest immigrant group.
However foreign students, along with highly educated, skilled workers are two groups towards which Britons are relatively welcoming, new YouGov research can reveal. Forty-three percent of the British public think the number of foreign students coming to pay for study in Britain should stay at present levels, and another 22% think there should be more migration of this sort; the migration of skilled workers to the UK is just as welcome (43% want migration present levels and 21% want more).
In comparison, Britons tend to favour less immigration or none at all when it comes to people who are migrating to join family members in the UK or work in low-paid jobs. Nearly four in ten (39%) British adults say the UK should not allow any more people with low levels of education and skills to come and live in Britain.
The ONS also reported a “significant decrease” in the number of people coming to live with relatives. A third (33%) of Britons think Britain should allow less of this group into the UK, and 26% say Britain should allow none of this group at all.
London mayor Boris Johnson and House of Commons Speaker John Bercow have both made news in recent months for suggesting that foreign-born workers tend to be more hard-working than those born in Britain. YouGov research reveals that the largest group of voters disagrees – 46% think it makes “no real difference” where a worker was born.
However, about a third (32%) of Britons do think immigrants who come to work in Britain are more hard-working, while only 12% think the opposite is true.
Immigration is regularly listed as one of the most important issues to voters in Britain, often second only to “the economy” when it comes to issues facing the country. Immigration was also a key issue in the May local elections: YouGov previously found that concern about the level of immigration to the UK levels helped fuel UKIP's success.