75 Percent of Americans Say Immigration Is Good for Country, Poll Finds
Posted June 23, 2018 2:06 p.m. EDT
Most Americans oppose the separation of immigrant families at the border, and a larger share of people than at any point since 2001 say immigration is good for the nation.
Those were just some of the findings of polls published in the past week that shed new light on attitudes toward immigration, a subject that many Americans view as a top concern before this fall’s midterm elections.
While most oppose President Donald Trump’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border, fellow Republicans were more likely to support it than not, the polls found. Since the polls were conducted, however, the president caved to public pressure and agreed to stop the separation policy by detaining families at the border together for an indefinite period.
And despite the president’s anti-immigration message, 3 in 4 Americans say immigration is generally good for the nation, according to Gallup, the polling organization.
“Americans’ strong belief that immigration is a good thing for the country and that immigration levels shouldn’t be decreased present the president and Congress with some tough decisions as the midterm elections loom,” Gallup said in a news release Thursday.
Here’s what the recent polls show.
— Record Support for Immigration
Despite the contentious political climate, 75 percent of Americans think immigration, in general, is good for the nation, according to Gallup, which surveyed more than 1,500 adults during the first two weeks of June.
Among Democrats and those who lean toward the party, 85 percent viewed immigration positively, compared with 65 percent of Republicans and those who lean Republican.
When asked their thoughts about “legal immigration” specifically, even more Americans, about 84 percent, said it was good for the country.
Support for reining in immigration is at its lowest level in more than half a century: Just 29 percent of Americans believe it should be decreased, the smallest share recorded by Gallup since at least 1965.
— Strong Opposition to Separating Families
Several recent polls found that most Americans disagreed with Trump taking a hard-line approach to immigration enforcement by separating families at the border.
“When does public opinion become a demand that politicians just can’t ignore?” Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a statement this week, announcing the results of a recent survey of more than 900 voters conducted last week and weekend. “Two-thirds of American voters oppose the family separation policy at our borders.”
Two similar polls of adults — one conducted by Ipsos and another conducted by YouGov with The Economist — found comparable results, albeit with smaller majorities opposing the policy.
In all three polls, those surveyed were about twice as likely to oppose separating families as to support it. But there was a large partisan divide: Republicans were more likely to support family separation than oppose it, while Democrats overwhelmingly disliked it. Independents strongly opposed the policy, just not to the same degree as Democrats.
“Neither quotes from the Bible nor get-tough talk can soften the images of crying children nor reverse the pain so many Americans feel,” Malloy said in the statement. The administration was heavily criticized after Attorney General Jeff Sessions used a Bible passage to justify the separation policy and images of weeping children began to circulate widely.
— The Nation’s Top Problem?
Immigration has also emerged as a top policy concern among Americans: Those who were asked this month to name the most important problem facing the nation were more likely to bring up the issue than any other, according to a Pew Research Center survey of about 2,000 adults.
When Pew asked that same question in January 2017, immigration was cited less often than health care, the economy, unemployment, race relations and Donald Trump, then the president-elect.
Gallup found similar results: The share of Americans who said immigration was the top problem facing the country rose to 14 percent in June, from 10 percent the month before.
Both polls found that Republicans cited immigration far more often than Democrats. Still, Pew found that about 1 in 5 Democrats and Republicans alike wanted local candidates to discuss the issue this fall.