Opinium’s latest poll has found that almost three quarters (73%) of UK voters think the government has lost control of borders. In addition, 30% (+1) think a Labour government led by Keir Starmer would be best at handling immigration, vs only 22% (-3%) for a Conservative government led by Rishi Sunak – an 8-point lead, up from 4 last week.
A quarter (24%) of UK adults have named immigration as one of the most important issues facing the country, up from 17% last week, coming in fourth behind health and the NHS (59%), energy and power (53%) and the economy (50%).
Public think immigration is too high
Over half (55%) of the UK thinks that immigration levels are currently too high, with over four fifths (82%) stating that the government is not in control of the situation in the English Channel, where people are attempting to travel to the UK in small boats.
When asked about immigration and control of borders in the context of Brexit, only 12% of UK adults think Britain has been in control of its borders since Brexit, and only 9% think Brexit made Britain’s ability to manage its borders better.
Criminal gangs to blame
The public think criminal gangs are to blame for the number of arriving in the UK, regardless of who the people crossing the English Channel are. Two in five (39%) think people are crossing the Channel in these numbers because they are being transported by criminal gangs, regardless of whether they are asylum seekers or economic migrants.
When asked about who they think is making up the numbers, a quarter (23%) said they think it is economic migrants that would not otherwise qualify to enter according to UK immigration rules, whilst a fifth (19%) think the people crossing are primarily asylum seekers, and that there are not enough safe routes to claim asylum in the UK.
Over a quarter of UK adults think the government should be doing more to help more people arrive safely in the UK, however, over half (57%) have revealed they think the government should be doing more to prevent journeys and stop people entering the country.
Over two fifths (45%) disapprove of the way Suella Braverman is handling her job as Home Secretary, with over half (52%) stating her re-appointment was a bad decision. However, the public is divided on whether her use of the term ‘invasion ‘when referring to immigration was reasonable. Over two fifths (45%) think her choice of language was reasonable, whilst 40% think it was unreasonable. Looking at how people divided in the Brexit vote – 72% of Leave voters think it was reasonable vs only 26% of Remainers.
Honeymoon period over for Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak’s initial gains in his first week as the new leader of the Conservative party have been halted, as Labour extends its lead to 18 points vs 16 points last week. Labour are on 46% (+2) vs. 28% (n/c) for the Conservatives, 8% (-2) for the Lib Dems, 6% (+1) for the Greens.
In addition, Rishi Sunak’s approval rating has also suffered, with 29% (-2) saying they approve of the job he’s doing, whilst 31% disapprove (+8), giving him net -2 overall.
When asked who would make the best prime minister, Keir Stamer has retaken the lead, 28% chose Sunak (-2) vs. 30% choosing Keir Starmer (+3).
Adam Drummond, Head of Political and Social Research at Opinium said: “It’s been a difficult week for the new prime minister. The situation in the English Channel will have reminded Rishi Sunak that he needs to have solutions across a whole range of policy issues beyond just steadying the economy.
“Unless the government gives the impression it is in control of the situation, they risk trapping themselves in the worst of all worlds: alienating pro-immigration voters with the Home Secretary’s rhetoric, while those who are more likely to agree with Suella Braverman simply feel like the government is unable to deliver on their priorities.”