American Public Opinion About Immigration

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

by Joseph Carroll

U.S. Immigration Levels

Gallup's annual update on immigration from June polling finds that 46% of Americans say they want the level of immigration into the country decreased. About a third (34%) say they want immigration kept at its present level, and 16% want it increased. These views are little changed from last year.

The Sept. 11 terror attacks affected Americans' views on immigration. Prior to the attacks, in June 2001, Americans were evenly divided on whether immigration should be kept at its present level (42%) or decreased (41%). Shortly after the attacks, in October 2001, a majority (58%) said immigration should be decreased. While the percentage saying immigration should be decreased has declined since then, it is still not back to its pre-9/11 levels.

In the mid-1990s, Gallup measured much stronger anti-immigration sentiment. Three polls conducted between July 1993 and July 1995 found more than 6 in 10 Americans saying the immigration level should be decreased.

Has Immigration Been a "Good Thing" for the Country?

The June 6-25 poll finds 6 in 10 Americans (61%) saying immigration is a good thing for this country today, while only a third (34%) say it is a bad thing. Gallup found roughly the same results in 2001 and 2003, but Americans were slightly more negative in the first post-9/11 poll (June 2002), when 52% said immigration was a good thing and 42% said it was a bad thing.

Illegal Immigrants

Americans say the United States should not make it easier for illegal immigrants to become U.S. citizens. Twenty-eight percent say the government should make it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens, while 70% say it should not. These results have shown only modest fluctuations in the three times Gallup has asked this question.

Hispanics Have Positive Views of Immigration

Hispanics consistently express more positive views of immigration than do blacks or non-Hispanic whites.

  • Fifty percent of whites and 44% of blacks say immigration levels should be decreased. That compares with just 32% of Hispanics. A plurality of Hispanics, 41%, say immigration should be kept at its present level.
  • Nearly three in four Hispanics (74%) say immigration is a good thing for the country today. This view is shared by 60% of whites and 55% of blacks.
  • While two in three blacks and nearly 8 in 10 whites believe the government should not make it easier for illegal immigrants to become U.S. citizens, 70% of Hispanics take the opposing view.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030