Why will around half of the UK vote for Brexit? The answer you will hear time and again is EU immigration. But why do people dislike EU immigration? Of course people fear the unfamiliar, and that is a fear that can be played upon, but is that really why people dislike EU immigration? Not according to this poll.
More people think that EU immigration has been good for them personally than think the opposite. I’ll repeat that: more people think that EU immigration has been good for them personally than think the opposite. More people think the culture of Britain has been improved by EU immigration than the opposite.
The reason people think EU migration has been bad for Britain is the impact on the NHS, and therefore by inference other public services. It is commonsense to many people that EU immigration increases the pressure on the NHS and public services, and it is confirmed by the newspapers they read: here is one example, and here are some more.
What people miss is that EU migrants pay tax, which could fund public services. Indeed EU migrants tend to be young, so they are likely to pay more tax in than they are likely to take out from using public services. It is why the OBR believes that restrictions on immigration would hurt the public finances.
Which means that in reality EU migration creates more resources that allows the government to spend more on the NHS and other public services. Not only do EU migrants pay for themselves in this respect, they also make access easier for natives. Add in the negative impact of making trade with the EU more difficult, and it is clear that Brexit would have a negative impact on public services. No wonder Dr Sarah Wollaston switched sides.
Yet this is an argument David Cameron was reluctant to make, because it raises an obvious question. If EU migration is not the reason why the NHS is in crisis, what is? The answer is that his government has chosen to shrink the share of national income going to the NHS, when there are good reasons why this share should be rising. In other words the government has taken the taxes EU migrants pay, and used them to cut taxes or cut the deficit. Because Cameron will not make the case for why EU migration helps the NHS, that case is not heard by voters. Instead they are told all the time that the NHS has been 'protected'. Hence the poll result.
Whatever happens today, this point is of vital importance. So many people will be telling both the government and the Labour party that the EU referendum - whatever the actual result - has shown that to win votes politicians must cut immigration. What the poll above suggests is that what people really want is a better NHS, and that they incorrectly believe that less EU migration is a way to get it. .