Research has revealed that British voters are keen to see more highly skilled migrants granted UK work permits.
The latest British Social Attitudes report from NatCen Social Research revealed that Brits' approach to UK immigration has changed notably over the past 15 years.
The past decade and a half has seen one of the largest inflows of immigrants in the country's history, and a significant increase in people's opposition to immigration. It appears that a concern regarding the economic and cultural impact of allowing a lot of people into the country is the primary driver behind this unease.
The study found that 51 per cent of respondents would like to see immigration levels reduced a lot. This is up from 39 per cent back in 1995, while a further 24 per cent would like to see levels reduced a little.
Meanwhile, 52 per cent believe that migrants are generally bad for the country's economy - up from 43 per cent in 2002 - and 48 per cent reckon that migration undermines Britain's cultural life, compared with 33 per cent in 2002.
However, these views are not being applied to all migrants. The research showed that 59 per cent of people questioned think that highly skilled progressional migrants are good for Britain, suggesting that the majority of people moving to the UK on Tier 2 work permits are welcomed by Brits.
Meanwhile, support for unskilled labourers moving to the UK dropped to just 19 per cent.
Penny Young, chief executive of NatCen Social Research, commented: “These findings uncover tough challenges ahead for the coalition government. Less than half way through the Parliament, there is already concern about cuts and their effect on public services.
“However, more encouragingly for Ministers, there is clear support for welfare and immigration reform - two areas we are already seeing emerge as key battlegrounds for the next general election.”