Politics

Americans' Views on Immigration Holding Steady

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Plurality continues to prefer decreased immigration levels

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans in 2011 continue to show a slight preference for lower immigration levels over keeping the levels the same, while a much smaller percentage favors increased immigration. These views are similar to what Gallup found last year and are fairly typical of what it has measured since 2002.

1986-2011 Trend: In your view, should immigration be kept at its present level, increased, or decreased?

Longer term, immigration views have varied. On some occasions, such as in 1999, 2000, 2006, and 2008, Americans were about equally likely to favor maintaining current levels as to favor decreasing them. At other times, the majority of Americans favored reducing immigration, such as after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and in the early to mid-1990s, when the state of California took steps to deny government services to illegal immigrants.

The 18% of Americans who favor increased immigration in the June 9-12 Gallup poll -- while still the minority view by a wide margin -- ties the historical high on this trend question first asked in 1965.

Democrats and independents divide about equally between favoring decreasing immigration levels and keeping them as they are. Republicans show a more decided preference for decreasing immigration; however, just short of a majority hold that view this year, compared with more than 50% in 2009 and 2010.

Views of Immigration, by Political Party, June 2011

Older Americans and those with less formal education are also more likely to favor reduced immigration. Americans with postgraduate education are far more likely to favor keeping immigration levels where they are than reducing them, and young Americans are among the subgroups most likely to favor increased immigration.

Views of Immigration, by Age and Education, June 2011

Americans View Immigration as Good for U.S.

Although Americans are most likely to say immigration levels should be decreased, 59% still believe immigration is good for the country today. In the 10-year history of this Gallup trend, a majority of Americans have consistently believed immigration is a good thing, with a high of 67% in 2006.

2001-2011 Trend: On the whole, do you think immigration is a good thing or a bad thing for this country today?

The poll finds fairly large differences on this question by age and especially education, and smaller differences by political party.

Views of Immigration as Good or Bad for the United States, by Age, Education, and Party Identification, June 2011

Bottom Line

Americans in 2011 generally have positive views of immigration but at the same time do not believe there should be more of it. These views have been steady in the past year and are fairly typical of Americans' views on the issue over the past decade.

Immigration remains an important problem in the public's eyes, though the federal government has done little to address the issue in recent years. Last month, President Obama made a renewed call for immigration reform, but it is not clear whether the government will make it a priority as it continues to attempt to jump-start the economy and re-evaluate its plans for ongoing military commitments in Afghanistan and Libya.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 9-12, 2011, with a random sample of 1,020 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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