The Immigration Question

Richard Florida, The Atlantic, August 5, 2009

American attitudes toward immigration are hardening, according to a new Gallup poll. Half of all Americans say immigration should be “decreased”–up 11 points from 39 percent last year.

Anti-immigration sentiment is growing across all major political groupings. Some 61 percent of Republicans say they would like to see immigration decreased, up from 46 percent in 2008, compared to 46 percent of Democrats, up from 39 percent; and 44 percent of Independents, up from 37 percent.

Southerners show the greatest anti-immigration sentiment with 54 percent saying they would like to see immigration decreased, followed by easterners (51 percent), midwesterners (48 percent), and westerners (44 percent).

The poll also saw a shift in American attitudes toward whether “immigration is a good or a bad thing for the country” with more than a third (36 percent) saying it is a bad thing.

Gallup notes that this marks “a return to the attitudes that prevailed in the first few years after 9/11.”

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poll

[Editor’s Note: Additional graphs are available linked from the excerpt below.]


{snip}, Gallup finds Americans less favorable toward immigration than they were a year ago. Half (50%) say immigration should be decreased, up from 39% last year. A third (32%) say immigration levels should be kept the same, down from 39%, and 14% say they should be increased, down from 18%.

The most recent results, from a Gallup survey conducted July 10-12, 2009, mark a return to the attitudes that prevailed in the first few years after 9/11; attitudes softened from 2006 to last year. The shift toward a tougher stance this time around may reflect the country’s economic situation, as Americans tend to become less pro-immigration during difficult economic times.

{snip} Currently, 58% say it is a good thing–the lowest percentage saying so since 2003. The historical low for this measure, 52%, came in 2002, after the 9/11 attacks.

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The 61% of Republicans who now say they would like to see immigration decreased is up from 46% in 2008. At the same time, the 46% of Democrats and 44% of independents who would like to see immigration decreased represent shifts in the same direction, up from the 39% and 37%, respectively, who said the same in 2008.

{snip} Americans in the South (54%) are the most likely to want immigration decreased, while those in the West (44%) are relatively less likely to say the same. Here again, each group has shifted toward a more anti-immigration stance.

Bottom Line

Americans have returned to a tougher stance on immigration than has been evident for the past few years. Republicans, in particular, have shifted most strongly toward decreasing immigration, with Democrats and independents moving in the same direction, but to a lesser degree. Thus, as lawmakers consider when and how to pursue immigration reform, they should do so mindful that Americans of all political persuasions are generally more resistant to immigration in broad measure than they were a year ago.

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