Voters are increasingly worried about immigration as the scale of Tory failure on the issue becomes apparent, but even so there was wide support for the sacking of Suella Braverman, including among Tory voters. Eric Kaufmann investigates this apparent paradox and reports his findings in UnHerd.
British voters, especially national populists, are annoyed by small boats, high immigration and pro-Palestine marches, but most do not yet realise the transformative scale of today’s immigration levels. Ahead of the publication of U.K. migration statistics later this week, they are not sufficiently agitated to support an electoral insurgency.
The academic Matthew Goodwin pointed out that voters support the Rwanda scheme by a 40-32 margin, rising to 71% among 2019 Tory voters. YouGov’s most important issues tracker shows that immigration is, for the first time since Brexit, the top issue for Conservatives, and a leading concern for 37% of the public.
On the other hand, by a 57-20 margin, people support Suella Braverman’s sacking from the post of Home Secretary, as does a slim 44-39 share of 2019 Tory voters and Leave voters. How can we make sense of these apparently contradictory findings? To find out, I conducted a small survey of 289 2019 Conservative voters on Prolific, a platform used by many academics, on Monday. The sample divided 43-39 in favour of sacking Braverman, about the same as YouGov’s nationally representative data from last week.
The most important factor predicting support for Braverman’s sacking is popular perception of the scale of immigration. Those who have noticed substantially higher immigration since Brexit are much less likely to agree with sacking the former Home Secretary than other Tory voters. Older voters like her more than the young, 2017 Tory voters more than 2017 Labour-Tory switchers, and Leavers more than Remainers. The chart below shows how support for Braverman changes as these parameters are altered: some three in four Labour-Tory switchers backed Braverman’s sacking, compared to just 32% of those Tories who believe immigration has increased a lot since Brexit.
When I asked respondents to summarise Braverman in a few words, Left-liberal critiques tended to paint her as a nasty racist; conservative respondents who worry about immigration but think she should be sacked tend to see her as rude, ambitious, uncaring and obnoxious, as the word cloud below reveals. When asked why they favoured her removal, such voters were mainly concerned about her undermining Rishi Sunak, the party or the police’s authority. Mainstream media coverage may have shaped the perceptions of such voters.
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