In the United States, the battle on immigration has intensified as the White House and Congressional leaders debate over compromise legislation on this issue. But concerns over immigration and what to do about it are not limited to the U.S. Two-thirds (67%) of British adults, 55 percent of adults in both Germany and Italy and 45 percent of adults in Spain believe there are too many immigrants in their country. While a little less, one-third of adults in both France (32%) and the U.S. (35%) believe that their country has too many legal immigrants. One thing to note is that France is the only country where a majority (52%) believes the number of legal immigrants is about right.
These are some of the results of an International Herald Tribune/Harris Poll which was conducted online by Harris Interactive(R) among a total of 6,520 adults (aged 16 and over), within France (1,125); Germany (1,133); Great Britain (1,088); Spain (987); the United States (1,012), and 1,174 adults (aged 18 and over) in Italy, between May 2 and 14, 2007.
While many may believe there are too many immigrants in their country, the attitude towards immigration, on the whole, is not that bad. Majorities in the U.S (59%), France (54%), Spain (53%) and Italy (51%) and just under half of adults in Germany (48%) all say that immigration helps their country. The British are the only ones that seem to think differently; as half of British adults (54%) say that immigration harms their country while just one-third (36%) say it helps.
Legal immigrants and voting
When it comes to legal immigrants and voting, attitudes of U.S. adults are a bit stricter than those of Europeans. More than half (53%) of U.S. adults believe that legal immigrants should not be allowed to vote in any elections. This is much lower in Europe, ranging from 28 percent in France who believe this to 38 percent in Great Britain who think legal immigrants should not vote in any elections. However, this does not mean they should be allowed to vote unconditionally. Over one-third of adults in all five European countries as well as one in five (22%) U.S. adults, think that legal immigrants should be allowed to vote in all elections after several years of legal residence.
One thing that adults in all the countries agree on is that border controls against illegal immigrants in their respective countries are too relaxed. More than three-quarters of those in Great Britain (80%) and Italy (78%) as well as 73 percent of U.S. adults believe their border controls are too relaxed. Majorities in Spain (62%), France (56%) and Germany (54%) also believe this.
The question is, however, what to do about these illegal immigrants and here there is a definite disagreement. Six in ten adults in Italy (60%), Great Britain (59%) and Germany (54%) say all illegal immigrants should be expelled. However, 14 percent of Germans also say illegal immigrants with children should be allowed to stay, but all others should be expelled.
Adults in Spain and the U.S. are more closely aligned. Just under half (46%) of U.S. adults and 43 percent of Spanish adults believe all illegal immigrants should be expelled. But 15 percent of U.S. and Spanish adults also believe that amnesty should be granted to all illegal immigrants—this is the highest among all six countries. One-third (34%) of French adults believe all illegal immigrants should be expelled while one in five (19%) would allow illegal immigrants with children attending school to stay, but would expel all others.