02/01/2014 13:24 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 10:52 GMT

Immigration Attitudes Revealed In Major Ipsos Mori Study

Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Immigration attitudes

Most people in Britain think immigration is a problem - but not where they live, a major new report has revealed.

While 70% think it is a problem facing the country, just 20% see it in their local area, with hostile media coverage thought to be a key reason for their attitudes.

The findings come from an Ipsos Mori study that reveals stark divisions between different generations, political ideologies and social classes in their feelings towards people coming to the UK.

And it comes amid a fevered debate about the arrival of Romanians and Bulgarians after visa restrictions were lifted on New Year's Day.

Writing for The Huffington Post UK on Thursday, Romanian ambassador Ion Jinga hit out at the "alarmist" media for an "insulting campaign" against his countrymen.

On Thursday evening, Ipsos Mori published a major analysis, based on opinion polls carried out over many years.

It also found that people born before were almost twice as likely to see immigration as a problem as those born after 1980 were.

So-called baby boomers are getting more negative in their attitudes, while younger generations are getting more positive.

People in poorly paid jobs worry about immigrants taking work, while richer people are concerned about their impact on public services and the welfare state.

Unsurprisingly, there are sharp differences in attitudes between different newspaper readerships.

But even at the Daily Mail, only 50% of readers regard immigration as an "important issue".

At the Express, which splashed on January 1 with "BENEFITS BRITAIN, HERE WE COME!", the figure is 52%.

Ukip supporters - after being on a par with Tories in 2002 - are by far the most worried, Ipsos Mori said.

And the pollster also confirmed that Britons overestimate the scale of immigration - believing on average that 31% of the population were born abroad when the official estimate is 13%.

One of the report's authors, Bobby Duffy, of Ipsos Mori, said the public was "generally very sceptical" about immigration - but that opinion was too nuanced to be reflected by a single survey.

He added: "Politicians and the media need to tread a very careful line in recognising the public’s significant and genuine concerns while not encouraging unfounded fears based on misperceptions.”