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Immigration fears shaped by age

PEOPLE born to the baby boomer generation are more likely to have a negative view of immigration than those born after 1980, according to a major on-going study.

Public perceptions on immigration are shaped by their age rather than their social class, according to Ipsos MORI survey drawn from surveys conducted over many years

The report has been released following the lifting of rules governing immigration to the UK from Romania and Bulgaria on New Year's Day. It found that immigration increasingly divides the generations in the UK, with those born between 1945 and 1965 that have becoming increasingly negative about the impact of immigration during the past decade, in contrast to younger generations, who have become more positive.

It also indicates that attitudes are changing, with manual workers who used to be much more likely to be concerned than the highest social classes now half as likely to have fears about foreigners arriving in the country.

But there are still different concerns by class and income, with those on low incomes more likely to be worried about the impact of immigration on jobs while those on high incomes are more concerned about immigrants' use of benefits and public services.

Those earning more than £75,000 a year are nearly twice as likely to say pressure on benefits/public services is a reason for their concern than those earning less than £10,000.

The report also shows that immigration has only become an issue of concern during the past 20 years, and barely registered as a national concern before 1990.

Bobby Duffy, managing director of the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute and one of the report authors, said: "Looking across such a wide range of surveys over such a long period provides a really clear view of our attitudes.

"It shows a public that is generally very sceptical about immigration - but also that there are many more nuances and qualifications than can be picked up in individual surveys. Politicians and the media need to tread a very careful line in recognising the public's significant and genuine concerns while not encouraging unfounded fears based on misperceptions."

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