TWO recent reviews of issues that worried voters the most in 2015 in America and Britain, from Gallup and Ipsos/MORI respectively, noted a marked rise in concerns about immigration. A topic that has trundled along for years in both countries gained traction with the ascent of populist candidates in the Republican presidential race in America and the UK Independence Party in Britain. Hostility to more immigration has surged in Europe, too, as countries there face the worse refugee crisis in years, but it is striking that among Anglo countries in a separate Gallup poll, America and Britain stood out as the two that want to see a decrease in immigration; two-fifths of Americans and over two-thirds of Brits.
Last year immigration ranked among the top four topics that Americans say is a problem for the first time in eight years. Donald Trump, the outspoken Republican front-runner in the presidential race, has made it his signature issue, weaving it into a narrative of general economic decline and concern about terrorism, which also figured high among last year’s problems list. This may help him in the primaries. Gallup found that 27% of Republicans (and 18% of Democrats) will only vote for a candidate who shares their views on immigration; a further 56% of Republicans said the issue is an important factor in considering whom to support. Republicans prefer Mr Trump’s outlandish position on immigration, such as building a wall on the Mexican border, more than on any other issue.
Ipsos/MORI’s analysis of the issues that concerned Britons in 2015 show a similar pattern to that in America. Some of the topics it asks questions about hit four-decade highs during the year, such as housing and low pay. The voting intention of those polled shows that more Labour supporters fretted about poverty, low wages and unemployment than did Conservatives. Mentions of Europe, a Tory hang-up by a ratio of three-to-one, jumped in January. Concerns about terrorism (about which Tories also worry more) soared after big attacks in Tunisia and Paris, but as the memories of those attacks receded, so did their importance to voters. In America concern about terrorism rose to its highest level in a decade after the attack in San Bernardino.
In Britain worries about immigration are at higher levels than in America, probably because the subject is ever present in the news: from the general election in May, and UKIP’s surprising success in the popular vote after running on an anti-immigrant ticket (disguised as an anti-European Union stance), to a summer stacked with images of asylum-seekers clinging to the beaches of Europe, after horrifying journeys across the Mediterranean in overloaded dinghies. These events coincided with immigration polling passing 50% in Britain for the first time ever, peaking at 56% in September. Proving that this is truly a global world, American anxiety about immigration also peaked in September, which Gallup suggests was a response to the European migrant crisis, a crisis faced by the Old Continent 3,500 miles away.
Original post: http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2016/01/public-opinion-and-immigration