Posted on August 20, 2022

A Majority of Americans See an ‘Invasion’ at the Southern Border, NPR Poll Finds

Joel Rose, NPR, August 18, 2022

More than half of Americans say there’s an “invasion” at the southern border, according to a new NPR/Ipsos poll, part of a broader decline in support for immigrants overall.

The poll also found that large numbers of Americans hold a variety of misconceptions about immigrants — greatly exaggerating their role in smuggling illegal drugs into the U.S., and how likely they are to use public benefits, for example — as false and misleading claims about immigration gain traction.

Republicans are more likely to hold negative views of immigrants. But the poll found they’re not alone in embracing increasingly extreme rhetoric around immigration.


The poll found that a majority of Americans — including three-quarters of Republicans — say it’s either somewhat or completely true that the United States is “experiencing an invasion” at the southern border.

The U.S. Border Patrol has apprehended migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border more than 1.8 million times since October, setting an annual record for arrests with two months still to go before the fiscal year ends.

Nearly half of those migrants were quickly expelled under the public health order known as Title 42 that’s been in place since the beginning of the pandemic. But hundreds of thousands more were allowed to seek asylum and other protections in the United States.

Republican leaders are increasingly framing the situation as an “invasion.” Immigrant advocates say the word has a long history in white nationalist circles, and warn that such extreme rhetoric could provoke more violence against immigrants.

Still, the polling shows that the word “invasion” has been embraced by a wide range of Americans to describe what’s happening at the border.


{snip} In the NPR/Ipsos poll, a plurality of Republicans answered incorrectly that immigrants are more likely to commit crimes.

Republicans were also more likely to endorse rhetoric that echoes the so-called “replacement theory” — the false conspiracy theory that Jews or elites are deliberately replacing white Americans with immigrants and people of color.

More than a third of all poll respondents agree that “native-born Americans are being systematically replaced by immigrants” — including more than half of Republicans. Almost half of all Americans say that “Democrats are working to open our borders to more immigrants,” with more than 70% of Republicans in agreement.

The issue of immigration is much more urgent for Republicans than for Democrats. About a quarter of GOP respondents say immigration is one of the “most worrying” problems facing the country, while only 4% of Democrats rank immigration as a top concern.


The poll found that a large number of Americans, including big majorities of Republicans, blame migrants for a rise in deaths from fentanyl — even though there’s no evidence directly linking them to the problem.

It’s true that fentanyl overdose deaths are up in recent years, and that much of the U.S. fentanyl supply is smuggled through the border.

But experts say the vast majority of fentanyl and other illegal drugs are smuggled through official ports of entry, hidden in large trucks and passenger vehicles, while a relatively small amount is smuggled by cartels across the border between those ports.


Similarly, more than half of Republicans say immigrants are “more likely” to use public assistance benefits than the native-born population, even though many immigrants are barred from using most federal benefit programs. Less than a quarter of Republicans correctly identified that statement as false.


When NPR polled Americans on immigration in 2018, three out of four respondents agreed that “immigrants are an important part of our American identity.”

Today that number has fallen sharply.

That’s not the only sign of eroding support for immigrants in the latest poll.

When asked four years ago, nearly two-thirds of respondents favored a pathway to legal status for the so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children. Now that support has fallen to a bare majority, driven largely by a steep drop among Republicans and independents.

There’s also been a modest but steady increase in support for a wall at the southern border, from 38% in favor four years ago up to 46% now.