Immigrant population significantly overestimated by British public

The extent to which Britain is populated by immigrants is grossly overestimated by the public, according to a new survey by Ipsos MORI.

When asked what percentage of the UK population are immigrants (i.e. not born in the UK), the mean response was 31 per cent - compared to the actual figure of 13 per cent. Of those immigrants, the public estimated that 21 per cent of these were asylum seekers. The acutal figure is four per cent.

When asked why their guesses were so much higher than the real figure, 56 per cent thought this was down to illegal immigrants not being counted, while 46 per cent refused to believe that the 13 per cent figure was correct.

Around three quarters of those surveyed said that the number of immigrants entering the company was too high, and just 14 per cent said it was about right.

The questions were part of a wider survey investigating public perceptions on a number of issues. The survey polled 1,015 British adults aged between 16 and 75.

Some of the other findings include:

  • A third of people think that membership of the EU is a good thing for Britain, while 46 per cent think it is a bad thiing - up from a respective 47 per cent and 38 per cent in 2005.
  • The unemployment rate was estimated to be 22 per cent, compared to the actual rate of eight per cent.
  • Some 84 per cent think that the British economy is currently in a poor state, 12 per cent think it is doing well.
  • When asked which money saving policies they support the most, 54 per cent said stopping child benefits for households with a parent earning over £50,000, 53 per cent said capping benefits at £26,000 per household. Just 16 per cent said capping benefit increases at one per cent per year and 12 per cent supported raising the pension age to 66.
  • Some 29 per cent of people think we spend more on jobseekers' allowance than pensions. We actually spend 15 times more on pensions (£4.9bn versus £74.2bn).