Immigration in the Polls-Are We Really that Horrible and Mean-Spirited? Not so much, really.

immigration-historyI have been depressed lately by the traction that McTrump has been getting on immigration.  I hear that immigration is a major issue in New Hampshire.  What is that?  Are they that pissed at their Canadian neighbors?  It made me wonder what Americans really think about immigration.  So, I checked a few sources.

On one side, if one reads McTrump’s policy statement on immigration, it seems like he has been copping much of his “thought” from The Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform (FAIR).  FAIR has a new story about how Americans really feel about immigration.  I looked at it, and compared it to what national polls have to say. Their FAIR text is in italics. I have used bold on some of their more “interesting” statements.  Stop immigration-2

In reality, opposition to amnesty is very much a mainstream position that is very often obscured by public polls that offer a small number of options—mass deportation or mass amnesty being perennial favorites. When given a menu of seven options to choose from instead, the fact that the public’s position is at odds with the views of the political establishment of both parties becomes quite clear.  In fact, what the political elite view as the most hardline position on immigration was the most popular option among the study’s respondents.

Here are their questions on immigration and the percent of respondents who chose that option:

1.The United States should have open borders and allow further immigration on an unlimited basis. 4.7%

  1. Legal immigration to the United States should greatly increase among all immigrant groups, regardless of their skills. Immigrants already in the United States should be put on the path to citizenship. 17.4
  2. Immigration of highly skilled individuals should greatly increase. Immigration by those without such skills should continue at its current pace, although this immigration should be legalized. 10.8%
  3. Immigration of highly skilled individuals should greatly increase, and immigration among those without such skills should be limited in time and/or magnitude, e.g., through a guest worker program. 12.0%
  4. The United States should admit more highly skilled immigrants and secure the border with increased physical barriers to stem the flow of other immigrants. 17.0%
  5. Only a small number of highly skilled immigrants should be allowed into the United States until the border is fully secured, and all illegal immigrants currently in the US should be deported. 13.8%
  6. Further immigration to the United States should be banned until the border is fully secured, and all illegal immigrants currently in the US should be deported immediately. 24.4%

One can see from these answers that, in fact, nearly a quarter of the American citizenry holds a view dismissed entirely by the political class as too extreme to even imagine—stopping all immigration and immediately deporting all illegal aliens.

Further, 55 percent of the citizenry is either not open to any more immigration or open only to “highly skilled” immigration in the future. Thus an immigration position that is supported by a clear majority of the citizenry—preventing any more low skilled immigration, is virtually ignored.

[One gets that total of 55 percent when you add responses 5, 6, and 7.  These items include queries about deportation, stopping immigration, better barriers, and high skill immigrants.   Only 38 percent (responses 6 and 7) call for a complete stop or a stop for all but higher skilled immigrants. Response 5 calls for measures to “stem to tide” (whatever that may mean to them), so it should not really be included in that total.  None the less, 38 percent is pretty scary, and the 24.4 for a complete stop and deportation is way scary as well.] illegalsigration-does-not-match-americans-views-says-study/

Let’s take a look at national polls for some better information.

CNN/ORC Poll. July 22-25, 2015. N=1,017 adults nationwide. Margin of error ± 3.
“What should be the main focus of the U.S. government in dealing with the issue of illegal immigration: developing a plan that would allow illegal immigrants who have jobs to become legal U.S. residents, or developing a plan for stopping the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. and for deporting those already here?” RV = registered voters
Stop flow,
% % %
7/22-25/15 56 42 3
2/12-15/15 49 49 1
12/18-21/14 50 46 4
7/18-20/14 45 51 4
1/31 – 2/2/14 54 41 5
Seems like a bunch of folks like deportation, doesn’t it?  But, another look may change your mind about what people think. The polls below, all relatively recent, show that most people are fine with those who entered illegally staying.  Some want a fine and other requirements, but that is a far cry from deportation.  Some believe in citizenship; others prefer legal residency; both are a far cry from deportation.

Also, clear majorities think that immigrants strengthen our nation, though around a third are concerned about culture and value change as a result of immigration. 

ABC News/Washington Post Poll. July 16-19, 2015. N=1,002 adults nationwide. Margin of error ± 3.5.

“Do you think undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States should or should not be allowed to live and work here legally if they pay a fine and meet other requirements?”
be allowed
Should not
be allowed
% % %
ALL 60 37 3
“Do you think undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States should or should not be allowed to live and work here legally if they pay a fine and meet other requirements?” If should be allowed: “Do you think undocumented immigrants who meet the requirements should be able to apply for U.S. citizenship, or be able to apply for permanent residency, but not U.S. citizenship?” Combined responses.
be allowed:
be allowed:
be allowed:
Should not
be allowed
% % % % %
7/16-19/15 40 17 2 37 3
“Overall, do you think immigrants from other countries mainly strengthen or mainly weaken American society?”
Strengthen Weaken Neither
% % % % %
7/16-19/15 57 33 1 5 4
“Do you think undocumented immigrants from Mexico are mainly undesirable people like criminals, or mainly honest people trying to get ahead?” Options rotated
 Hispanic family
Undesirable Honest Unsure
% % %
7/16-19/15 16 74 10
Public Religion Research Institute/Religion News Service. June 10-14, 2015. N=1,007 adults nationwide. Margin of error ± 3.6.
“Which statement comes closest to your view about how the immigration system should deal with immigrants who are currently living in the U.S. illegally? The immigration system should allow them a way to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements, or allow them to become permanent legal residents but not citizens, or identify and deport them?”
Citizens Permanent
None of
% % % % %
6/10-14/15 64 15 16 1 4
2/4-8/15 59 19 18 1 3
11/25-30/14 58 19 20 1 2
7/23-27/14 58 17 22 1 2
“Would you say that, in general, the growing number of newcomers from other countries threatens traditional American customs and values, or strengthens American society?” Options rotated
equally (vol.)
% % % %
6/10-14/15 33 54 7 7

Data from

download_editedMcTrump says a nation without border is not a nation.  I say that a nation that forgets its immigrant heritage and heaps scorn on those who come here to build a better life for themselves and their family is not a good nation (Yes, Jeb, immigration is an act of love and don’t let them steamroller you on this!).

No one should, or could, doubt that we are in fact a country; what much of this talk about immigration makes some of us here and many more of those abroad wonder is if we are a good, fair country.

Buck up, we are hearing all about McTrump and his devotees and about Republican voters.  What they think is what they think; it is not (and the polls show it) what the majority in this nation think.


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