On 30th March an article appeared in The Independent with the headline “Majority of voters not convinced by Tory promises to lower immigration to below 100,000." (See here).
The article claimed that, not only were the public sceptical that the policy can be delivered, but also that they think it would be better to aim for a deliverable number, even if that meant a smaller reduction.
The report was based on an opinion poll commissioned by the think-tank British Future but which comprised three extraordinarily leading questions clearly designed to elicit responses hostile to a net migration target.
The first question was “Net migration is currently 298,000 rather than at the targeted level of 100,000. If the government pledged to reduce net migration to 100,000 over the next five years, how likely or unlikely do you think they would be to meet this promise this time around?”
86% thought that it was unlikely. Not exactly a surprise, given that the question stated that the present government had been entirely unsuccessfully the last time around.
Similarly, the next question recalls the bias of the first, “Still thinking about the government setting targets for net migration, which of the following statements best reflects your opinion”.
78% agreed that the statement “I would rather the government set a target that it can deliver, even if that meant aiming at a smaller reduction in migration”.
No surprise there either.
The final question asked the respondent the extent to which they agree or disagree with the statement “Rather than a one size fits all approach to cutting immigration levels, sensible targets would treat different types of immigrants differently – for example skilled and unskilled, students or refugees”.
75% of respondents agreed and 10% disagreed. However, this question was the most leading of the three since it described one answer as “sensible” and, by using the term “one size fits all”, implied that the other answer was rigid and lacking in nuance.
In our view, opinion polling based on such slanted questions is frankly useless. Indeed, we are surprised to see a charity seeking to undermine a central policy of one particular political party. Furthermore, it is difficult to see why a think-tank claiming to be concerned about integration should be so opposed to reducing the present level of migration. It must surely be obvious that lower levels of immigration would be beneficial in terms of integration and community relations.