Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Poll on population becomes poll on immigration

A poll by the Optimum Population Trust (OPT) and YouGov has been twisted by the usual suspects to fit their anti-immigration agenda.

Indeed, what is immediately noticeable about the press release from the OPT and the poll numbers is how little immigration is part of it (the word 'immigration' is only used once, in each).

The worst reports are those in the Express and Star. Britons says slack immigration laws wreck life in UK and the unashamedly racist Migrants ruin UK say half of Brits are the respective headlines. The Star begins: 'Immigration is wrecking the quality of life in the UK, half of all Brits reckon', although this question was neither asked nor answered in the poll.

Both papers highlight: 'Two in three Britons want tougher immigration controls to halt our out-of-control population growth'. But it's important what is left out. The question asked was:
Which, if any, of the following changes would you support for the UK?
And it is true 69% of respondents ticked 'Measures to reduce immigration somewhat from its current level'. But 62% also ticked 'Better family planning advice and support to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies'. So why is the headline not: 'Two thirds of Britons want better family planning to reduce our population growth'? Indeed, the first line of the OPT press release focuses on the fact 'half the public believes couples should limit themselves to two children or fewer'.

The Star goes on to claim: '74% blamed Britain’s open-door policies for our clogged roads and crowded trains and buses'. Except the poll results don't exactly show that. The question asked was:
Which, if any, of the following issues do you think are caused by continuing population growth either in the UK or abroad?
74% per cent did choose traffic congestion, but to say traffic congestion is a result of population growth is hardly ground-breaking. But it's not linked to immigration by the poll; 'Britain's open-door policies' is sheer editorialising.

The Mail weighs in with Cut population by a third, say crowded Britons. The first line reveals that reducing the population by 'up to a third' is the view of 'one in four' - not exactly a majority to base such a definite and conclusive headline on. In fact, the biggest single answer to the question: 'What do you feel would be the ideal population size for the UK?' is the 40% who say 'don't know'. Which hardly justifies the Mail's claim of 'deep anxiety about pressure on the environment and the impact of migrants on public services and social cohesion'. Social cohesion, incidentally, isn't brought up anywhere by OPT.

One of the more interesting stats is that in answer to the question: 'In general, do you think your personal quality of life would be better if your area had more or fewer people than it does at present?' the most popular answer (with 33%) was: 'My area has the right number of people'. And add 11% who said: 'Not applicable - the number of people wouldn't affect my personal quality of life'.

Funnily enough, this isn't reflected in the Star, Mail or Express articles at all.

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