Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Immigration attitudes: Young graduates versus the white working class

As I've noted before, a large majority of the British public is in favour of reducing immigration: around 70-80%, depending on exactly how the question is phrased. Here I compare the immigration attitudes of two salient social groups: young graduates––individuals aged 18-35 with a university degree; and the white working class––individuals with two British-born parents who identify as white and do not have a university degree. 

Young graduates are of interest because they comprise a disproportionate share of the social media commentariat––those who share articles and broadcast their opinions on Twitter and Facebook. The white working class are of interest because they are the demographic which has allegedly been abandoned by the Labour Party, their traditional and natural ally. Data are from the 2013 wave of the British Social Attitudes survey.

Respondents were asked, "Do you think the number of immigrants to Britain nowadays should change?" The response categories were "increased a lot", "increased a little", "remain the same", "reduced a little", "reduced a lot" and "don't know". The two charts below display, respectively, the percentages of young graduates, the general population and the white working class who want immigration "reduced a little" or "reduced a lot"; and the percentages who want immigration "reduced a lot".

Unsurprisingly, the gap between young graduates and the white working class is huge: 37 percentage points in the top chart, and 46 percentage points in the bottom chart. Indeed, these are larger than the gaps between Labour and Tory voters on state ownership of rail and energy companies. Nearly 90% of the white working class want immigration reduced, compared to only 50% of young graduates. And 70% of the white working class want immigration reduced a lot, compared to under 25% of young graduates. 

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