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CNN poll: Majority of Britons oppose immigration

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
Nick Griffin's far right British National Party has campaigned strongly in east London on opposition to immigration.
Nick Griffin's far right British National Party has campaigned strongly in east London on opposition to immigration.
  • 77 percent of Britons think fewer foreigners should be allowed to move to UK
  • CNN/YouGov poll comes on eve of election in which immigration a crucial issue
  • Opposition Conservative Party has taken tougher line on immigration
  • One in eight Britons say no immigration should be allowed at all

London, England (CNN) -- More than three out of four British people think fewer foreigners should be allowed to move to the country, a new poll by YouGov for CNN found Wednesday.

Some 77 percent of the British people questioned say net immigration should decrease or that no immigration should be allowed at all, according to the poll of more than 4,000 people.

Net immigration is the number of people who move to a country minus the number who leave.

The poll results come a day before British voters cast ballots to determine if Prime Minister Gordon Brown will get to keep his job.

The opposition Conservative party, which leads in many opinion polls, has taken a harder line on immigration than Brown's Labour party or the smaller opposition Liberal Democrats.

Conservative voters were more likely than others to oppose immigration, according to the poll.

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Three out of four Conservative backers said net immigration should decrease a lot, that there should be no net immigration, or that there should be no immigration at all.

About half of Labour and Liberal Democrat voters took one of those positions.

The Labour government put in place a points-based immigration system that allows only skilled non-European Union immigrants into the country based on the U.K.'s needs.

The Conservatives want to cap non-EU immigration in addition to the points-based system already in place.

The Lib Dems support the points-based system but also want an "earned route" to citizenship for any immigrant in the U.K. for more than 10 years and without a criminal record.

Two smaller parties take a still harder line on immigration.

The British National Party wants an immediate halt to all immigration. The UK Independence Party wants a five-year freeze on immigration for permanent settlement, and a cap of 50,000 net immigrants per year after that.

The current U.K. population is about 60 million, and is projected to rise to about 70 million -- mostly due to immigration -- in the next two decades.

Net migration fell from about 233,000 in 2007 to 163,000 in 2008. Figures from last year are not yet available.

One in 20 British people say net immigration should increase, according to the survey, while one in 10 say it should remain at the same level.

Just over one in 10 say there should be no net immigration -- that is, "one person in, one person out."

About one in eight -- 16 percent -- say the United Kingdom should not allow any immigration at all.

But only half of the respondents -- 49 percent -- said the government should set a numerical limit on the number of immigrants "to make sure that levels of immigration are under control."

Thirty-four percent say the government should not set a specific number of immigrants allowed into the country, but should let people in if they have skills needed in Britain.

About one in 10 chose neither option and six percent did not know.

YouGov surveyed 4,368 people for CNN.

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