Immigration is now the main concern for UK voters, according to various polls carried out by the opinion poll company YouGov.
In a series of surveys, immigration has come out either above, or tied with the economy in importance for voters in each survey carried out since May last year. In September, immigration polled 58%, while the economy only reached 48% as being of greatest concern to UK voters. YouGov have stated that this is one of the most important opinion trends of last year.
Will Dahlgreen from YouGov explains:
'From May to December immigration was seen as the most important issue facing the country, except for on three occasions when it was tied with the economy.'
'Although immigration began to narrow the gap at the end of 2013, 2014 is the first year since 2010 when the economy has not been the top issue.'
'Immigration had an average lead of one point over the whole year, compared to a deficit of 18 in 2013 and 32 in 2012.'
The data from these surveys also indicates that Europe is of increasing concern amongst voters, with only 7% of people choosing it in 2010 as being of greatest concern, compared to 25% in October. These concerns can somewhat explain the rise of UKIP over the past year, as currently they are the only party who have openly stated that they want the UK to leave the EU. If this were to happen then the UK would no longer be governed by EU migration laws.
In May last year, UKIP came out on top in the European elections, winning 4.3m votes, pushing Labour into second place, and the Conservatives into third. UKIP also won two local by-elections for parliamentary seats in the House of Commons, in Rochester and Clacton.
The other political parties have responded to this surge in support for UKIP – David Cameron has promised to stop EU migrants claiming benefits until they have paid into the system for four years. Ed Miliband of the Labour Party has also tried to be seen to be tough on immigration; however it has been suggested that he appears to fumble and change the subject when asked a question directly on immigration.
Lord Green, crossbench peer and Chairman of the anti-immigration MigrationWatch says 'These are remarkable findings. It's simply not possible for the political class to remain in denial any longer. Suggestions that those who are canvassing should simply change the subject are now clearly absurd. The public want effective answers on immigration and will see through attempts to dodge the issue.'
Labour MP for Rochdale Simon Danczuk himself of Eastern European descent has explained that politicians have been too slow to recognise immigration as an issue. He said: 'People have been mentioning immigration to me a lot on the doorstep, people from all different backgrounds including ethnic minorities, working class and middle class people. People feel strongly about it.'