Research on anti-immigrant attitudes in the United Kingdom in the past has focused primarily on feelings of prejudice driven by local concentrations of ethnic minorities. The immigration debate, however, has arguably changed since the EU expansions and the economic crisis of the past decade. This paper tests whether public support for immigration restriction is empirically driven by factors such as resource scarcity and economic stagnation, skill supply of native and immigrant workers, and the origin of immigrants from poorer countries within and outside the EU. Survey data from the European Social Survey between 2002 and 2010 are matched with regional level indicators calculated using the UK Labour Force Surveys. Findings suggest that support for immigration restriction is higher in regions where more immigrants are unemployed, but lower in regions where more natives are unemployed for longer than a year. Both the origin and ethnicity of the immigrant population appear to play a role in immigration policy preferences among native respondents.
A subscription to the National Institute Economic Review is required to view this article