A closer look at Americans’ perceptions about immigrants and immigration reform

With Friday’s roll-out of the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill, it is a good time to take a closer look at Americans’ perceptions about immigrants and immigration reform:

Over the past eight years, Americans’ attitudes have shifted to be much more positive when it comes to the perceived impact immigration has on the United States.  Today, a majority (54{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of Americans believe immigration strengthens the U.S., while 36{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} believe it weakens the U.S.  This is a significant change in attitude over time, in 2005 the data was 41{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} strengthen/48{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} weaken.

  • In the April 2013 NBC News/Wall Street Journal Survey, respondents were asked to choose which statement comes closer to their point of view between:  1) Immigration adds to our character and strengthens the United States because it brings diversity, new workers, and new creative talent to this country; and, 2) Immigration detracts from our character and weakens the United States because it puts too many burdens on government services, causes language barriers, and creates housing problems.  The trend data over time is shown below.
    Strengthen Weaken Net Difference
    April 2005 41{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} 48{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} -7
    May 2010 47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} 44{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} +3
    April 2013 54{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} 36{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} +18

A majority of Americans believe that illegal immigrants are here in the U.S. to make a better life for themselves and their families.  (Public Opinion Strategies/Ciruli Associates – Vernon K. Krieble Foundation March 2013 National Survey)

table 1

Roughly seven out of ten voters say they favor Congress establishing a guest worker program that would give work permits to people who are already in the U.S. illegally if they pass a background check and have a job (69{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} favor/31{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} oppose).  (Public Opinion Strategies/Ciruli Associates – Vernon K. Krieble Foundation March 2013 National Survey)

Immigration reform is a high priority for a plurality of voters (47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} very high/high priority, 39{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} medium priority, 13{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} low priority).  (Public Opinion Strategies/Ciruli Associates – Vernon K. Krieble Foundation March 2013 National Survey)

  • This is true among both Republicans (53{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} very high/high priority) and Democrats (49{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} very high/high priority).
  • Some key voter sub-groups say immigration reform is a top priority:
    • Hispanics/Latinos (57{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} very high/high priority);
    • Seniors (55{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} very high/high priority); and,
    • Suburban Women (52{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} very high/high priority).

As Congress considers immigration reform, Americans place the highest priority on making sure all immigrants pay taxes, they pass a long-term solution, and coming up with a plan that can be supported by both Republicans and Democrats. (Public Opinion Strategies/Ciruli Associates – Vernon K. Krieble Foundation March 2013 National Survey)

  • We tested eight goals for Congress on immigration reform and asked respondents to rate each on a zero to ten scale, where ten means it should be the single most important goal and zero means it should not be an important goal and five is in the middle.

table 2

            * These items were half sampled, to test the receptivity to the difference in language.

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