BSA 33: Big majority believe immigration increases pressure on schools and hospitals

Big majority believe immigration increases pressure on schools and hospitals

-       Public more worried about impact of immigration on public services than on the economy or Britain’s culture

-       Concern about economic and cultural impact of immigration has fallen

New findings from NatCen’s British Social Attitudes survey reveal widespread public concern that immigration is creating pressure on the NHS and on schools.

Asked to balance the contribution that migrants make to the NHS as workers and tax-payers versus the use they make of its services, around 6 in 10 say migrants increase pressure on the NHS. As many as around 7 in 10 say the same thing when it comes to schools.

In contrast only just over one in three (35%) reckon that immigration is bad for Britain’s economy and just four in ten (40%) that it undermines Britain’s cultural life. At the same time concern about these aspects of immigration has – somewhat surprisingly perhaps - declined since 2013 when nearly half (47%) thought that immigration was bad for Britain’s economy and 45% reckoned it undermined the country’s cultural life.

People are particularly concerned about what they consider to be the pressure on services across Britain as a whole rather than in their own locality.

-       Schools: 71% think that immigration increases pressure on schools across Britain as a whole, while 62% say it does so in their local area.

-       NHS: 63% of people think that immigration increases pressure on schools as whole, with 57% saying it does so in their local area.

Social division

There continues to be a sharp social division in attitudes to immigration, a division that was also in evidence in last week’s referendum on EU membership.

For example, just 15% of graduates think that immigration is bad for the economy compared with 51% of those who do not have any educational qualifications. Equally, just 21% of those with a degree think that immigration undermines Britain’s cultural life, compared with 54% of those without any qualifications.

However, when it comes to the impact of immigration on schools, graduates are almost as likely (67%) as those without any educational qualification (76%) to think that it increases the pressure on them across Britain as a whole. This may reflect the importance that graduates place on education.

Younger people tend to take a more favourable attitude towards immigration than older people. However, the decline in concern about the economic and cultural consequences of migration appears to have occurred amongst both graduates and non-graduates, younger people and older people.

It may be that the improvement in the state of the economy between 2013 and 2015 helped reduce the level of concern about immigration. Even so, it remains the case that less than half think that immigration is actually good for the economy (42%) or that it positively enriches the country’s cultural life (40%).

Prof John Curtice, Senior Research Fellow at NatCen said: “This survey highlights that it is the belief that immigration puts pressure on public services that now appears to be the driving force behind public concern about the level of immigration into Britain. Even during a period where the public appeared less concerned about the economic and cultural consequences of immigration. Substantial majorities still said that migrants were having a net negative affect on British schools and the NHS. It would appear that assuaging this concern will be a key priority for the next Prime Minister as the government tries to meet the concerns about immigration that were evident during the EU referendum.”


For more information, to arrange interviews with Prof Curtice, contact Leigh Marshall:  0207 549 8506 or 07828 031850.


NatCen Social Research is an independent, not for profit organisation. We believe that social research has the power to make life better. By really understanding the complexity of people’s lives and what they think about the issues that affect them, we give the public a powerful and influential role in shaping decisions and services that can make a difference to everyone.

Sample and approach – The 2015 British Social Attitudes survey consisted of 4,328 interviews with a representative, random sample of adults in Britain with a response rate of 51%. Interviewing was carried out between 4th July and 2nd November.

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