Here’s a snippet from Don Flynn’s recent JCWI discussion paper, “‘Tough as old boots’? Asylum, immigration and the paradox of New Labour policy”, discussing some MORI research:
This records the fact that, throughout the 1990s, public concern about immigration as expressed in a succession of surveys remained low, with around or just under 5% of respondents recording it as ‘one of the most important issues in Britain today’. The pattern of response changed after 1997 with the beginning of a jagged series of up and down swings on the graph… rising to the point that, when polled in 2003, around 25% of respondents said that they believed that immigration policy was an issue of pressing importance.The MORI research plots this rise in public anxiety against a graph indicating an increase in enforcement actions by the Home Office which were, ostensibly, intended to allay fears. The chosen index of the rate of asylum decisions taken by IND officials shows that, just as the publicly-heralded policy of faster resolution of applications kicked in around 1997/8, the trend of anxiety moved upwards rather than declined. This suggests the existence of a link between the intensity of government action and public anxiety, rather than a straightforward engagement of the public with allegedly unpalatable facts about immigration.
Other findings in the MORI research bear this out. The greatest level of expressed anxiety was to be found in towns and districts of cities where immigrant penetration of local communities was low or non-existent… Further, when questions were framed in a manner intended to elicit more detailed and concrete responses about the perception of local community issues, concerns about immigration vanished from the scale and were replaced by unhappiness about the absence of facilities for young people, ‘low-level crime’, and road and pavement repairs…
A pdf version of this pamphlet is available here.