Americans View Immigration Positively
The American Immigration Law Foundation
Americans View Immigration Positively
Survey Shows a Majority of Americans Favor Immigration
According to a recent Gallup Poll, Americans now hold more positive views about immigrants than they have in the last twenty-five years. A greater number of people today believe immigration enhances U.S. culture and bolsters the economy.
A March 2001 Gallup Poll concluded that today more people hold positive views of immigrants and are more favorably disposed towards immigration than ever in the past twenty-five years.1 Views concerning the economic impact, as well as cultural influence of foreign-born residents in the United States, are much more optimistic than in previous polls on the subject.
Present Versus Past
The poll, entitled "Americans Ambivalent about Immigrants," where a random sample of 1,024 national adults were interviewed, showed that about six in ten Americans hold mostly positive views about immigrants. The survey also found that 51% of Americans favored increasing the level of immigration or at least maintaining the status quo; while 43% said it should be decreased.
The percentage of Americans calling for an increase in immigration levels has remained fairly constant over the recent past; however, the percentage of those wanting a decrease has fluctuated substantially over time. For example, in the early 1990s, 65% of Americans wanted to see the levels of immigration decreased, as opposed to only 33% who reported the same feelings in 1965. Therefore, the percentage of people calling for a decrease today, at 43%, is quite low especially in comparison to the drastic level expressed not even a full decade ago.
Immigration Improves American Culture
The most recent survey found that more people think the increased diversity that comes from immigration has an overall positive effect on American culture. 45% said the admission of immigrants improves American culture, while only 38% said it threatens it.
This is a much more positive view than that expressed in 1993, when the majority of Americans said the increasing diversity of immigrants threatened U.S. culture.
Overall, when asked about the effect of the dramatic increase in foreign-born residents during the past decade, 39% of those surveyed said they felt it had negative implications for the U.S., whereas 44% said they believed the change was a positive one.
The Economy Has Strong Influence
The state of the economy may considerably influence Americans' views towards immigration. For example, when the economy was rated as quite weak in 1996, people were asked whether all immigration should be halted completely for a five-year period. 50% said yes, while 46% percent said no. Later, in 1999, when the general public rated the economy as quite strong, a majority of Americans resoundingly opposed this five-year halt by a 58% to 39% margin.
Immigration Helps the Economy
There is also an improvement in Americans' views of the economic consequences of immigration. In a Gallup poll taken in September 2000, 75% of respondents believed immigrants took low-paying jobs undesirable to most Americans, while a much lower 13% believed immigrants took jobs Americans wanted.2
Another improvement in Americans' views towards immigrants was evident in the 2000 poll when respondents were asked whether immigrants became productive citizens that pay their fair share of taxes, or if they cost the taxpayers too much by using government services.
While 40% believe immigrants cost taxpayers too much, 48% believe they become productive and an asset in the long run. This is a large improvement from the results in 1993, when 56% of Americans said they felt immigrants cost taxpayers too much.
The contributions immigrants make to American society are increasingly apparent in the information age. As a result, Americans' views towards immigrants are becoming increasingly positive. According to the most recent Gallup Poll regarding immigration, more Americans today are positively disposed towards immigrants than they ever have been in the past.
Prepared July 2001
"Americans Ambivalent About Immigrants." Gallup Poll March 2001. www.gallup.com
"Opinions Vary Greatly by Education Level." Gallup Poll September 2000. www.gallup.com
About The Author
The American Immigration Law Foundation was established in
1987 as a tax-exempt, not-for-profit educational and service
organization. The Foundation's mission is to promote
understanding among the general public of immigration law and
policy, through education, policy analysis, and support to
litigators. AILF is governed by a Board of Directors and a Board
Working closely with leading immigration experts throughout
the country, AILF has established three core program areas: the
Legal Action Center, the Public Education Program, and an
Exchange Visitor Program. Through these programs, the Foundation
sponsors numerous awards programs, publishes policy reports,
engages in impact litigation, and provides policymakers and the
public with complete and accurate information about the benefits
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