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Public opinion, responsiveness and constraint: Britain's three immigration policy regimes

Public opinion, responsiveness and constraint: Britain's three immigration policy regimes
Public opinion, responsiveness and constraint: Britain's three immigration policy regimes
We examine the links between public opinion and policy in the UK over the past thirty years. We show that public views about immigration are responsive to changes in immigration levels and differences between migrant groups, and that policymakers are sensitive to these changes. Policymakers look to respond to the public mood on migration, but face growing constraints in doing so. The interaction of public opinion, policy and constraint has produced three distinct policy regimes. In the first, from 1982-1997, policymakers faced few constraints, immigration was tightly controlled and the public were unconcerned about the issue. In the second, from 1997-2004, migration policy was selectively liberalised in response to external and interest group pressures, producing increasing inflows and growing public demands for restriction. In the third, from 2004 to the time of writing, public demand for restriction is strong but policymakers face significant constraints in responding. In all periods, policymakers seek to focus restriction on the migrant streams most opposed by the public, but as they have lost discretionary power over the issue they have been forced to take action against more economically valuable and socially accepted migrant streams. The growing constraints on policymakers have therefore sharpened the trade-off between the "responsive" government of meeting public demands for immigrations restriction and the "responsible" government goal of providing for the needs of a flexible, globally integrated economy.
1369-183X
1391-1411
Ford, Robert
f2f320f9-15df-4a16-ab41-505f831a5ed1
Jennings, Will
2ab3f11c-eb7f-44c6-9ef2-3180c1a954f7
Somerville, Will
6d766d63-fdde-41e4-b814-bcfd78b5f6da
Ford, Robert
f2f320f9-15df-4a16-ab41-505f831a5ed1
Jennings, Will
2ab3f11c-eb7f-44c6-9ef2-3180c1a954f7
Somerville, Will
6d766d63-fdde-41e4-b814-bcfd78b5f6da

Ford, Robert, Jennings, Will and Somerville, Will (2015) Public opinion, responsiveness and constraint: Britain's three immigration policy regimes. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 41 (9), 1391-1411. (doi:10.1080/1369183X.2015.1021585).

Record type: Article

Abstract

We examine the links between public opinion and policy in the UK over the past thirty years. We show that public views about immigration are responsive to changes in immigration levels and differences between migrant groups, and that policymakers are sensitive to these changes. Policymakers look to respond to the public mood on migration, but face growing constraints in doing so. The interaction of public opinion, policy and constraint has produced three distinct policy regimes. In the first, from 1982-1997, policymakers faced few constraints, immigration was tightly controlled and the public were unconcerned about the issue. In the second, from 1997-2004, migration policy was selectively liberalised in response to external and interest group pressures, producing increasing inflows and growing public demands for restriction. In the third, from 2004 to the time of writing, public demand for restriction is strong but policymakers face significant constraints in responding. In all periods, policymakers seek to focus restriction on the migrant streams most opposed by the public, but as they have lost discretionary power over the issue they have been forced to take action against more economically valuable and socially accepted migrant streams. The growing constraints on policymakers have therefore sharpened the trade-off between the "responsive" government of meeting public demands for immigrations restriction and the "responsible" government goal of providing for the needs of a flexible, globally integrated economy.

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Accepted/In Press date: 4 February 2015
Published date: 27 March 2015
Organisations: Politics & International Relations

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 358922
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/358922
ISSN: 1369-183X
PURE UUID: 690f9037-c6c1-4661-82d4-f141ccc2ceee
ORCID for Will Jennings: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-9007-8896

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Date deposited: 09 Feb 2015 09:27
Last modified: 23 Jul 2022 02:04

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Contributors

Author: Robert Ford
Author: Will Jennings ORCID iD
Author: Will Somerville

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