Research has found that, despite a range of conflicting emotions on the topic, the majority of Brits agree that immigrants enrich the country's culture.
The latest Transatlantic Trends poll found that 63 per cent of UK respondents agree with the statement that 'immigrants enrich our culture'.
However, additional questions in the poll showed that not everyone understood the realities of immigration. Significantly, there was a trend to overestimate how many migrants live in the UK. On average, respondents guessed that 31 per cent of the UK population is made up of immigrants when in reality the figure is around 12 per cent.
The survey questioned 1,000 people in each Western country it studied. It found that British people did see benefits with immigration, but that 64 per cent said that it was more of a problem than an opportunity for the country; a figure that could reflect the trend within the press to report negatively upon the issue.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of MigrationWatch UK, an anti-immigration think tank, told The Times that the negative aspects of public opinion are due to previous mistakes in handling immigration. He said: “After net foreign immigration of nearly 4 million under the previous government, it is absolutely no surprise that public opinion should react in this way.
“It is absolutely essential for any British government now to get a grip of the scale of immigration before these negative numbers go any higher.”
Ruth Grove-White, policy director at the Migrants' Rights Network, offered a more optimistic viewpoint to The Independent: “This poll tells a more positive story than it may seem. While Brits remain concerned about immigration, we are broadly optimistic about being a diverse society.
"It is unsurprising that many of us think 31 per cent of the population are migrants, given the volume of hostile public debate about immigration and its impacts."