By Karlyn Bowman
February 14, 2017
A wall on the US-Mexico border? Temporary or permanent bans on immigration from certain areas? A new policy on refugees? There has been a flood of news and polls on these hot button immigration issues.
Most recent polls show 55 to 60 percent of Americans oppose building a wall on the border; around four in ten support it. The results of polls on the temporary ban on immigrants from different countries are mixed. Question wording varies, and methodology may also play a role: net support for the ban has been higher in polls conducted online than in polls conducted by live telephone interviewers, which have found slight majorities opposed. Republicans are supportive of both the ban and building the wall, while Democrats are opposed.
But what are Americans saying about broader immigration questions? Is there anything on which Democrats and Republicans agree? In a recent issue of AEI’s Political Report we took a look. There are some surprises.
In the past quarter century there has been a dramatic change in Americans’ views about whether “immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents” or whether they “are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing, and health care.” In a 1994 Pew Research Center survey, 63 percent said they were a burden. Twenty-seven percent say that today. Thirty-one percent in 1994 said they strengthen the country; today 63 percent give that response.
We have also seen some change in opinions about the proper level of immigration. Support for increasing levels of immigration in the US has never been high, but it has been rising in recent years. In Gallup’s latest question from 2016, 21 percent gave that response, up from 7 percent in 1965. In this poll, opinion divided evenly between the “decrease” and “kept at the present level” responses, both at 38 percent.
There is more continuity on the question of whether immigrants take jobs American don’t want or whether they take jobs away from American citizens. Over time, CBS News has asked this question about “immigrants” and, separately, “illegal immigrants,” and the results have been generally consistent. In their latest question from October 2016, a solid 65 percent said illegal immigrants mostly take jobs American don’t want.
Virtually every recent poll shows that Americans believe that illegal immigrants currently living in the United States should be given a chance to remain here legally. Fifty-nine percent in a new Quinnipiac poll of registered voters said they should be allowed to stay in the United States and to eventually apply for citizenship, and 9 percent said they should be allowed to stay but not to apply for citizenship. A quarter said they should be required to leave. In the exit polls of voters leaving the polls in 2012 and 2016, 65 and 70 percent respectively of voters checked a box saying “illegal immigrants should be offered a chance to apply for legal status.” Twenty-eight and 25 percent, respectively, said they should be “deported to the country they came from.”
There are partisan differences on all immigration questions, but the question of how to deal with unauthorized immigrants living in the US is one where there seems to be potential for partisan agreement. Support for offering undocumented immigrants a chance to remain legally is highest among Democrats, but recent polls by Quinnipiac, Gallup, and Pew showed majority or plurality support among Republicans as well. (The Gallup and Pew questions, which both included the condition that immigrants meet “certain requirements,” drew more favorable responses from Republicans than the Quinnipiac question.) Even among Trump voters in the 2016 exit poll, the percentage who said illegal immigrants should be offered a chance to apply for legal status outweighed the percentage who said they should be deported, 50 to 44 percent.
In the midst of current controversies, views on a particular policy or action do not represent the full scope of public opinion on an issue, especially one as complex as immigration. Understanding the full picture – of continuity, change, and opinions on current controversies – is essential for moving ahead.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com