EU referendum: In the 1970s, people's views on immigration had nothing to do with their views on Brexit

Emma Haslett
Follow Emma
Referendum Documents
UK voters were last polled over EU membership in 1975 (Source: Getty)

As debate around the impending In-Out European referendum escalates, it's interesting to look at how our attitudes to the EU and the baggage it brings with it have changed.

These days, membership of the European Union is inextricably linked with a higher rate of immigration, but it hasn't always been so.

A piece of research put out by independent academic body The UK in in a Changing Europe back in December showed that in 1975, the last time UK voters were polled on EU membership, very few of those keen to leave the EU were concerned about immigration.

Read more: Skilled migrant restrictions will hit the economy

In fact, while these days an overwhelming number - more than 50 per cent - of potential Out voters believe too many immigrants have been let into Britain, in 1975 just 26 per cent took that view.

"The relationship between anti-immigration attitudes and opposition to the EU has strengthened greatly in recent years, in direct response to the dramatic growth in immigration from, specifically, the 2004 EU accession countries," points out the research.

Read more: Brexit's hidden risks to the City

"Recent immigration from Bulgaria and Romania is likewise accompanied by a markedly increased level of concern about immigration."

Will that be enough to swing voters' opinions this time around? Difficult to say. But it's nevertheless worth noting - if only to remind voters that when it comes to the referendum, immigration isn't the only issue at stake.

Related articles