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Ukip's claims chimed with voters' concernsUkip

Signs that British voters were attracted to Nigel Farage's Ukip in recent elections because of its controversial focus on immigration have been underpinned by a new survey.

The poll, taken by ICM for the Guardian after the EU elections, shows that when it came to fears over the economy, almost half (46%) were most concerned about immigrants undercutting local workers.

At the same time, it showed "curbing immigration" was the top policy (26%) favoured as the best way of restoring faith in politics, ahead of tax cuts (19%) and offering a referendum on EU membership (15%). All are part of Ukip's promised manifesto.

The survey offers some encouraging news for Ed Miliband suggesting that, while the majority of people (56%) accept that the economic recovery is underway, almost half (46%) do not believe it is helping them or their family, with only 18% believing they are benefitting.

Similarly, 57% say the biggest worry over their jobs is wages lagging behind living costs, while only 20% believed the next generation would do better than they had done. Both these issues have been central to Miliband's agenda.

It also shows that, after immigration, the biggest factors blamed for the economy were ruthless companies (42%), Labour mistakes (40%) and rip-off banks (38%). However 36% also blamed coalition government mistakes.

While the headline figures appear to boost Miliband's focus on the cost of living crisis, and the fact people are still feeling worse-off than they did in 2010, there will be real worries at the findings on immigration.

Both Labour and the Tories have attempted to offer more robust policies towards curbing of migrant workers, particularly those from the EU, but Miliband has insisted he is not going to follow Farage's anti-immigration agenda.

What the poll cannot show, of course, is whether the concerns were always running at that sort of level as has been suggested, or whether Ukip's relentless focus on the issue intensified and amplified the existing fears.

It did, however, supported suspicions that older, working-class voters in the north of England were most concerned about immigration.

That is exactly the group of so-called "left behind" voters, often formerly Labour supporters, recently identified as fertile territory for Ukip.

However, the poll also echoed previous studies showing that, when asked about the problems in their own neighbourhoods, immigration was a significantly lower concern at only 22%.

The good news for the government is the simple fact that most people at least believe the recovery is real. The problem remains convincing them that they will reap the rewards in time for the next general election.