- Support for the two most stark positions – slamming the doors on immigration, and flinging them open – is very small: six per cent for the former, 2.5 per cent for the latter.
- There is strong support for tougher immigration controls – plus the ConservativeHome manifesto policy of restricting the access of new immigrants to welfare benefits and public services. 61 per cent of Party member respondents back this in tandem with a more restrictive immigration policy. An offer of that policy without the services and benefits curbs gained lower support at 26 per cent. An offer of a less restrictive immigration policy, plus the benefits and services curbs, found lower support still at 13 per cent. 81 per cent of Party member respondents want illegal immigrants removed from Britain. Support for an amnesty is miniscule at five per cent.
But three findings were perhaps surprising:
- A Party member survey for this site in 2012 found that about 70 per of Party members would vote to quit the EU now. 37 per cent of Party member respondents this time round say that Britain should “exit the EU altogether”. Though these two sets of questions aren’t identical, and the one in our last survey is set in the context of curbing immigration from the EU, the latter figure is south of where I would have expected it to be. I anticipated a 50 per cent figure or thereabouts.
- 42 per cent of Party member respondents want negotiations to restrict immigration from present EU member states – with exit if this isn’t agreed: in other words, an end to freedom of movement. Again, this figure is lower than where I expected it to come in. I expected one north of 60 per cent.
- More Party members want students to be removed from the immigration targets than retained – 31 per cent to 25 per cent. It is true that only 56 per cent therefore express a view at all. But I find this response astonishing – especially in the context of the severe findings on control in response to the general immigration questions. It will please what’s sometimes called the “University lobby” – which was taken to task on the matter by Sir Andrew (a.k.a Lord) Green on this site, correctly in my view.
I can think of two explanations for these last findings.
First, that the questions are flawed in some way (though this is an interpretation we unsurprisingly resist).
Second, that responses to this section of the survey are somehow unusual. However, only some of them are so, as we’ve seen: most of the immigration answers are much as would have been expected. And the answers to other questions in the survey – future leadership, satisfaction with the Coalition, etc – are also much as expected. So this explanation looks flawed, too. The findings of the monthly survey across the year are very consistent.
About 700 Party members responded to the survey – about a hundred down on the average response. This will be because this month’s survey was a long one. The findings are checked against a control group supplied by YouGov.