Race and immigration is now seen as the most important issue facing Britain, according to the latest poll by The Economist/Ipsos.
It is the first time in almost six years that the controversial subject has topped the chart for the biggest challenges facing the UK. Almost two-fifths (39 per cent) of the public cited race and immigration as a top issue.
At the beginning of the year, it was voted joint first with the economy by voters as the most significant challenge. Now the economy has fallen into second place in the rankings of the public concern.
The poll reflects growing optimism about the continued recovery, signalled by a drop in unemployment this month to just 6.6 per cent, the lowest rate since 2009.
Only a third of respondents now mention the economy as the most important issue facing Brtiain, down from 68 per cent in 2011.
The fears surrounding race and immigration are likely to play to the favour of Ukip, the anti-EU party that wants severe controls placed on immigration, in the run up to next May’s general election.
The age and regional demographics in which Ukip has proven popular cohere with those singled out as most likely to rank race and immigration as the top challenge facing the UK.
The poll revealed that the people more likely to mention the issue include those aged 55+ (47 per cent) and those who live in the South East of England outside of London (55 per cent), compared with those aged 18-34 and those who live in the capital (both 28 per cent).
Among the others issues cited as important, almost three in ten (28 per cent) of voters mentioned unemployment and 24 per cent mentioned the NHS.