Wall Street Journal
By Laura Meckler
December 17, 2014
Support for immigration in the U.S. has stayed steady, even as the political fortunes of immigration legislation have risen and fallen. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Wednesday finds 48% of Americans saying that immigration helps the U.S. more than it hurts it, with 42% saying it hurts the U.S. more.
That’s about where the nation has been since mid-2010, when immigration legislation was not being seriously debated.
Since then, support for immigration has grown among Democrats and independents but fallen among Republicans. Just 29% of Republicans say immigration helps more than it hurts, down from 36% in 2010. Independents are now evenly divided, whereas they were more anti-immigration in 2010. Today, 66% of Democrats say immigration helps, vs. 52% in 2010.
Asked about a variety of impacts immigrants may have on local communities, survey respondents were most positive about the introduction of different customs, foods and ways of doing things, with 52% saying that has a positive effect and just 11% calling that a negative impact.
Many Americans see immigrants as taking jobs that are “hard to fill,” with 44% calling that a positive impact. Just 28% saw a corollary negative impact on the labor force, saying that immigrant impact on the “availability of jobs” was negative effect.
Beyond partisan politics, the survey shows another significant split on the issue, between income groups, with higher-earners more supportive of immigration than those who make less money.
Among those who earn less than $30,000 a year, 48% say immigration hurts more than it helps, while only 40% say is helps. Among those making more than $75,000, the numbers are reversed, with 55% say immigration helps more than it hurts and 36% saying it hurts more.
The poll also shows a puzzling gender gap, with men more likely to support immigration than women. Among men, 52% say it helps more than it hurts, with 39% saying it hurts more. Women were evenly divided, with 45% on each side.
That immigration gender gap is even more pronounced among whites. About half of white men say immigration help more than it hurts, while 42% say it hurts more than it helps – that’s a net positive of 7 percentage points. Just 39% of white women say immigration helps more than it hurts, while 52% say it hurts more than it helps – a net negative of 13 points. Add it together and that’s a 20-percentage-point difference in how white men and women see the issue.
The economic outlook may help explain the divide. The poll found white women are less optimistic about the year ahead than white men. At the same time, economic outlook plays a big role in how people answered the question about whether immigration helps or hurts.
Among those who expect next year to be better, 65% said immigration helps more than it hurts. Among those who said they expect the economy to get worse, 61% said immigration hurts more than it helps. Among those who said the economy will stay the same, the split was even – with 45% giving each answer.
The Journal/NBC poll of 1,000 adults was conducted from Dec. 10-14. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
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