LDV Poll: Immigration – Lib Dem members have their say

Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum recently to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 650 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

Big majorities say immigration has had positive effect on UK

On balance, do you think immigration into the UK from the following areas has had a positive or negative effect on the UK?

    From Western European countries, such as France and Germany
    85% – On balance, has had a positive effect on Britain
    1% – On balance, has had a negative effect on Britain
    12% – On balance, has had neither a positive nor negative effect on Britain
    3% – Don’t know
    From Eastern European countries, such as Poland or Lithuania
    72% – On balance, has had a positive effect on Britain
    10% – On balance, has had a negative effect on Britain
    15% – On balance, has had neither a positive nor negative effect on Britain
    4% – Don’t know
    From countries outside the European Union, such as India and Pakistan
    68% – On balance, has had a positive effect on Britain
    13% – On balance, has had a negative effect on Britain
    14% – On balance, has had neither a positive nor negative effect on Britain
    5% – Don’t know

Current immigration rules about right, say most Lib Dems

The free movement of persons is a fundamental right guaranteed to EU citizens: UK citizens are free to work overseas within the EU, and EU citizens are free to come and work in the UK. Do you think rules on immigration from the following areas should be tougher, are too tough, or get the balance about right?

    Immigration from countries INSIDE the European Union?
    14% – Rules are too tough and should be relaxed to allow more immigration
    15% – Rules are not tough enough, and should be strengthened to reduce the amount of immigration
    69% – The current balance is about right
    2% – Don’t know
    Immigration from countries OUTSIDE the European Union?
    28% – Rules are too tough and should be relaxed to allow more immigration
    22% – Rules are not tough enough, and should be strengthened to reduce the amount of immigration
    45% – The current balance is about right
    5% – Don’t know

72% say UK should welcome Romanian and Bulgarian citizens here

When Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union temporary restrictions were placed on their citizens’ right to live and work in other EU countries. These restrictions run out in 2014, after which Romanian and Bulgarian citizens will have the same rights as other EU citizens to live and work in other EU countries. Which of the following best reflects your view?

    72% – There is nothing wrong with Bulgarian and Romanian citizens having the same rights as other EU citizens, and Britain should welcome them
    13% – Bulgarian and Romanian citizens having the right to come and live in Britain would be damaging, but the British government needs to obey the law and has no choice but to allow them in
    6% – Bulgarian and Romanian citizens having the right to come and live in Britain would be damaging and the British government should act to restrict their right to live or work here, even if it means breaking EU laws
    6% – None of these
    3% – Don’t know

You can read Nick Clegg‘s speech on immigration yesterday here. We published three opinion pieces on this:

Here’s a sample of your comments:

Why on earth would we not want young, talented people to come and work here and contribute to the economy, the tax system and our cultural diversity?

The very fact that an LDV survey is asking these questions reflects how much our national discourse had been poisoned by the likes of the Daily Mail

Britain is currently unable to house those who already live here, hence the upsurge in illegal habitations in back gardens across London and the south east especially. Letting more people into these areas, and be fair they won’t in the main go elsewhere, is asking for problems.

Bulgarian and Romanian citizens having the right to come and live in Britain is the law of the EU and has to be obeyed, but we should have the right to be able to ask people why they are coming here and return them if we do not believe they are needed in the UK

Immigration at the level we have seen produces over-population, which causes dissent in the population and loss of amenity as homes have to be built on green places to house the increased population.There is also added strain on services such as doctors, schools and transport.

They should be allowed to enter the country based on the skills they can bring here. They should have a job and accommodation lined up already to decrease the chances of them ending up on state benefits.

EU laws need changing on this issues. Nations should meet a level of GDP per capita before the free movement of people is allowed. Having time restrictions for entry is not enough it needs to be a GDP per capita limit.

Not only is there nothing wrong with them having the same rights, but this is absolutely essential. It is a scandal that they have not had their full rights until now. British people need to understand that free movement is a two-way street, from which we benefit as much as anyone

Bulg and Rom citizens are no worse than anyone else (I have been to both countries on business so can judge) – but it’s a matter of numbers. We have far more people already than there is any prospect of our economy supporting.

This is just another moral panic stoked by inaccurate reporting.

The EU needs a system of temporary infrastructural funding to mitigate the burden immigration can have on local services like schools. This is an important issue, especially considering recent reports of 250,000 school places needed coinciding with relaxation of restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian migrants

Like everything else it depends on how many come and whether they have jobs

Unless you subscribe to the lump of labour fallacy, immigration at current levels and even somewhat higher is likely to be sustainable – it may help grow the economy and create jobs! Immigration is about quality not quantity – skilled migrants who contribute should be welcomed from no matter where, but we do need to boost infrastructure (esp housing) and have reasonable conditionality attached to some services/benefits etc.

The freakish scaremongering needs to be stopped dead. If for no other reason than simple logic, why would Romanians not go to a country with similar language (France) or stronger economy (Germany) in preference to a Germanic-language economic disaster (Britain)?

The more we enable integration and connection between ethnic groups the more we will engender mutual understanding and reduce the potential for narrow-minded conflicts.

As someone running a high tech business in the UK generating all its income from overseas customers, I need to be able to draw on the best talent in the world. I’m doing my bit for the balance of payments, it would be useful if immigration paranoia didn’t get in my way.

I don’t think we should treat them differently, maybe introduce for ALL a search on criminal records and not let criminals in?

Productivity is falling as immigration falls. Aging population means we need younger workers to support them. Need more immigration, not less.

Doesn’t matter where immigrants come from but no good if they don’t have skills we need

1)Those arrested for offences of violence or dishonesty must be held without bail and expelled on conviction. 2) No benefits without at least 12 months paid National Insurance contributions

I think the demonisation of the Romanians and Bulgarians in the media is shameful.

They should be allowed in the country if they have relevant skills that are needed here and have a specific job and accommodation in place to avoid them ending up on state benefits.

Benefits they may receive here should be to support them and any dependants here, and not replace the responsibilities of other countries to dependants still there

The problem with freedom of movement is a perception of “other” people getting things indigenous ones cannot. This perception should be tackled. We should also recognise that true freedom of movement of Labour requires a common language and people in this country should speak English. AS outlined by the German president. It is this lack of common language that elads to misconceptions.

I support the right for all EU citizens to enter the UK, but believe some reform is needed to tighten immigration rules more generally and ensure access to services and benefits are not abused.

The problem with these two member states is that,until lately,they have never had anything other than a doctrinaire, dictatorial system of governance. The concept of democracy is largely a fig leaf used to cover the unpleasant consequences of the post Nazi,and then post Soviet regimes. The same problem rests with Hungary as well.

The need is for selective immigration

The EU needs to change the law to reflect the large differences between member countries and to prevent benefit tourism. Staying with the status quo will erode support for the EU itself as it will become increasingly seen as out of touch.

Free movement of people and goods within the union is a key benefit to the EU. Changing the rules for some members is potentially damaging, not to mention unfair.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 647 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 14th and 17th March.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    16 Comments

    • I would have posted this comment at the end of the previous thread, but it occurs to me that it is more likely to be read as an early comment here rather than after sixty seven comments there.

      It seems to me deeply unsatisfactory that although our MPs, their staff, and so on, are very willing to engage in discussion on twitter, hardly any of them engage in discussion here. The result of this is that we are continually surprised when the collective opinion of our parliamentary party turns out to be quite different from the majority view on here. If our parliamentarians entered properly into debate here, it might not change our minds, but it would at least prepare us for the the line that is likely to be taken when serious policy issues come up

    • Richard Dean 23rd Mar '13 - 10:49am

      Alternatively, why don’t we all move to Twitter?

    • N otable drop off in the postive effect between those three groups in the first question…..

    • Encouraged by the liberal attitude generally……. await Liberal Democrat MPs to act in a Liberal way.

    • ” if we do not believe they are needed in the UK”

      This line here shows all that is wrong with the populist beliefs on immigration. These are people, not fast-food boxes to used and then causally cast aside once they have been used.

    • Andrew Tennant 23rd Mar '13 - 3:56pm

      Intrigued – this polling was conducted before Nick Clegg’s speech. Was this coincidentally fortuitous or did you know what was coming?

    • Liberal Neil 23rd Mar '13 - 6:35pm

      I assumed it was prompted by the prominence of the immigration issue in Eastleigh and recent polls.

    • Helen Dudden 24th Mar '13 - 9:21am

      In Bath there has been the addition of many Polish people, extremely hard working, and they often drive the buses and taxis. We have the Spanish working in our hotels, the Italians in our restaurants.

      I would comment that there are very few MP’s that are brave enough to answer any questions that are put them on line. I find Tweeter a mode of contact that I personally do not like. But then this form of contact is more demanding.

      The Lib Dem MP’s now are one of the worst in this category.

    • Graham Jones 24th Mar '13 - 9:48am

      I didn’t have time to complete a survey in which so many questions were mandatory and required some research or inside-track knowledge. A pity, because we all need to stand up and be counted on this issue, 75% of pupils at the primary school in my ward speak a language at home other than English; the secondary schools have around 60 languages – 120 across the city’s state schools as a whole. And this isn’t London. A challenge? Yes. A problem? No. Migration brings skills and vitality, and as the population grows, so does the economy.

    • Once again I am disappointed to say the least about the manner in which Nick Clegg has spoken. It may well be good politically to take the initiative in raising the matter at this time, but his speech is presented as definitive proposals which have not been properly considered by the party. Surely he should simply have outlined the setting up of a working group to examine the issue under the attempt to explore current practical ways of ensuring an immigration policy which keeps the issue under control and is to the benefit of both immigrants and our nation.

    • nvelope2003 24th Mar '13 - 3:01pm

      I have been to Romania – they were not nice people. It was the most frightening place I have ever visited. You could not go for a walk without being hassled by criminals and there are an awful lot of them in Britain now .The ony Bulgarians I have met in the UK were criminals like my former neighbours who were extremely unpleasant although we tried to be friendly with them. The onky time they ever responded to my greeting was when their little boy smiled at me and I said hello so they were shamed into pretending to be friendly.

      Yes the Poles and others are hard working and generally pleasant but Russians are not.

      If we need so many immigrants why is it that there over 2 million people unemployed ? I understand the need for skilled workers and specialist workers but what is wrong with our system that means we have to import them from abroad ?

      There needs to be a sustained programme of education to make people fit to serve the community in whatever way they are capable of. We cannot afford to have millions of people not contributing. It is like the Roman Empire where the citizens of Rome received the Imperial “Dole” and spent their time watching cruel so called amusements at the Coliseum while foreign workers (slaves) did all the real work. Now people sit at home on benefits watching nasty videos and taking drugs to cope with the monotony of life. This is a cruel and wicked society.

    • Mark Blackburn 24th Mar '13 - 3:46pm

      I’ve been to Romania several times (best friend married to a Romanian woman who spends most of her time working for NGOs helping repressed minorities find means of self-expression – hardly a crim activity). Like any group of people, some (if not most) are friendly and helpful, some are not. If you’ve lived most of your life under Ceaucescu and then in a void where a handful of oligarchs and politicians (mini-me Russia) are snapping up the spoils, it’s not the easiest of circumstances. Any liberal should know better than to make generalist judgements based on nationality.

    • Stephen I think your poll was biased!

      From the information you give, I find myself siding with the majority; however, I still believe (and would even go so far as to say know) that levels of immigration since 1997 have been far too high and needs to fall dramatically if we are to have a stable multicultural society. Hence whilst the poll shows that most people believe that immigration is and has brought benefits, I would not interpret it as giving a green light to the open door laissez-faire approach adopted by New Labour in 1997. A sensible leader, will note the sizeable number of people who either viewed immigration negatively or were undecided and take action now to ensure the rules are being enforced and seen to be enforced before it does become a major problem – once the majority start to think that immigration is negative etc etc I suggest it will take a lot more to shift opinion back.

    • I have no doubt that there are good people in Romania as there are everywhere but the culture is not one most British people would be comfortable with and I agree that their history has ben largely responsible for this. I am about the only native born British person in my area and although I get on well with my present neighbours it has changed my view of immigration. It has been too much too soon. Foreign cultures have not always been of benefit to our society as some despise our liberal attitudes and seem to prefer the sort of regimes from which they claim to have fled and wish to impose similar ways on Britain.

      Of course it is hard for those who wish to marry someone from another country who are not allowed to live here but many deliberately seek to marry from abroad for reasons that have nothing to do with love or even affinity but more to do with money and inheritance.

      No one seems in the least concerned about the millions of unemployed people already in Britain. They are not all idlers or unemployable. I find this profoundly depressing and the result of the failure of the political class to deal with this problem could well be a move to more extremist parties with the continual drop in support for the traditional parties and low turnouts at elections which might turn into a flood of support for extremists from those who have given up hope.

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