Americans Have Mixed Opinions About Immigration

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Say it has helped country in general, but many see negative impact on crime, taxes and public schools

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The White House is considering several new proposals on immigration. One that has drawn considerable attention this week would grant permanent legal resident status to some three million Mexicans who immigrated to the United States illegally. A recent Gallup poll shows that most Americans believe immigration is good for the country in general, but can cite few specific areas in which immigration makes the country better. Additionally, Americans are more likely to say that immigration levels in this country should be decreased or kept at their present level, rather than being increased. Hispanics living in the United States express more positive views on immigration than do blacks or whites, but even among Hispanics only 33% believe immigration levels should be increased.

According to the poll, conducted June 11-17, 2001, and including larger samples of blacks and Hispanics, 62% of Americans think that immigration is a good thing for this country, while 31% think it is a bad thing. Hispanics are more inclined to say immigration is good for the country (73%) than are blacks (61%) or whites (62%).

Americans are even more positive about immigration when contemplating the past. Seventy-five percent of Americans say immigration has been a good thing for the United States in the past and less than one in five think it has been a bad thing. In this regard, whites are as positive about immigration as are Hispanics, while blacks are much less so.

Immigrants Thought to Worsen Crime, Schools and Taxes

Despite these positive general assessments, Americans are fairly critical about the effect immigration has had on the country in several areas. Among nine areas tested, on only one -- food, music and the arts -- do a majority of Americans say that immigration has made the situation better. In every other area, more Americans say that the immigration has made the situation worse rather than better, although a significant number also say that immigration has had no effect. The perception of a negative impact is strongest with respect to crime, the quality of public schools, taxes and job opportunities. Americans are more divided on immigration's effect on the economy, politics and government, and social and moral values.

For each of the following areas, please say whether immigrants to the United States are making the situation in the country better or worse, or not having much effect?
June 11-17, 2001

In stark contrast to whites and blacks, Hispanics think immigration has improved the situation in the United States in all areas except crime, and in general are much more positive in their assessment of immigration than are blacks and whites. Whites and blacks generally see things similarly, but whites are slightly more critical of the effects of immigration on crime, public schools, and social and moral values. Blacks think immigration has had a positive influence on social and moral values. Blacks, however, are more likely to see immigration as having a negative effect on the economy.

Percent Believing Immigration Has Made Situation "Better" Minus Percent Believing Immigration Has Made Situation "Worse"


2001 Jun 11-17
(sorted by "national adults")


National Adults

 

Non-Hispanic Whites

 


Blacks

 

 

Hispanics

         

Food, music, and the arts

+50

+51

+44

+69

The overall quality of life

+6

+4

+2

+48

The economy in general

0

-2

-12

+19

Social and moral values

-1

-5

+6

+28

Politics and government

-1

-5

-4

+26

Job opportunities for you and family

-16

-18

-18

+24

The quality of public schools

-22

-25

-16

+26

Taxes

-34

-35

-38

+14

The crime situation

-43

-46

-35

-35

Note: Positive scores mean situation is better, negative scores means situation is worse.

Ironically, despite the credit Americans give to immigrants for their cultural contributions, a majority (58%) feels immigrants should be encouraged to blend into American culture rather than maintain their own culture. Opinion on this matter varies by racial and ethnic group. Whites are most in favor of immigrants blending into American culture, by a 61% to 31% margin. Blacks are more likely to believe that immigrants should maintain their own culture, but still a plurality say that immigrants should adopt American culture (48% to 43%). Among Hispanics, however, more believe that immigrants should maintain their own culture (49%) than blend into American culture (45%).

Few Americans Want Immigration Levels Increased

The poll also shows a division in sentiment about immigration levels -- 42 % of Americans believe immigration should be kept at its present level, and 41% favor a decrease. Only 14% say it should be increased. There has been little change in this sentiment in recent years, but in the mid 1990s, a majority of Americans preferred decreases in immigration levels. In 1993 and 1995, about two-thirds of the public, substantially more than the current 41%, wanted immigration decreased.

In your view, should immigration be kept at its present level, increased or decreased?

Hispanics are most likely to say that immigration levels should be increased (33%), but a plurality of Hispanics (38%) believes that the current level should be maintained, and one in four Hispanics think immigration levels should be decreased (25%). Among blacks, a plurality (42%) thinks that immigration levels should be kept as they are, while 31% think they should be decreased and 24% think they should be increased. A slight plurality of whites (45%) says that immigration levels should be decreased, while 42% think they should be kept at their current level and only 10% think they should be increased.

View On Immigration by Race/Ethnic Group
June 11-17, 2001

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,375 adults, 18 years and older, including a main sample of 1,004 national adults and oversamples of blacks and Hispanics. Telephone interviews were conducted from June 11-17, 2001. An additional night of interviewing on June 18 was conducted for the black oversample. For results based on the total sample of 1,004 national adults, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Results based on the subsample of blacks include interviews with 264 black national adults and have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 7 percentage points. Results based on the subsample of Hispanics include interviews with 247 Hispanic national adults (including 59 conducted in Spanish) and have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 7 percentage points. 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.

Thinking some more about immigrants -- that is, people who come from other countries to live here in the United States,

In your view, should immigration be kept at its present level, increased or decreased?

 

 

 

Present level

Increased

Decreased

No opinion

         
 

%

%

%

%

2001 Jun 11-17

       

National Adults

42

14

41

3

Men

41

15

41

3

Women

43

12

42

3

         

Non-Hispanic Whites

42

10

45

3

Blacks

42

24

31

3

Hispanics

38

33

25

4



 

 

NATIONAL ADULT TREND

 

 

 

Present level

Increased

Decreased

No opinion

         
 

%

%

%

%

2001 Jun 11-17

42

14

41

3

2001 Mar 26-28

41

10

43

6

2000 Sep 11-13

41

13

38

8

1999 Feb 26-28 ^

41

10

44

5

1995 Jul 7-9

27

7

62

4

1995 Jun 5-6

24

7

65

4

1993 Jul 9-11

27

6

65

2

1986 Jun 19-23 †

35

7

49

9

1977 Mar 25-28

37

7

42

14

1965 Jun 24-29

39

7

33

20

         

^ Based on 514 national adults; margin of error ± 5 PCT. PTS.

† CBS/NYT



On the whole, do you think immigration is a good thing or a bad thing for this country today?

 

 

 

Good thing

Bad thing

MIXED (vol.)

No opinion

         
 

%

%

%

%

2001 Jun 11-17

       

National Adults

62

31

5

2

Men

68

28

2

2

Women

57

33

7

3

         

Non-Hispanic Whites

62

32

4

2

Blacks

61

28

7

4

Hispanics

73

18

2

7



On the whole, do you think immigration has been a good thing or a bad thing for the United States in the past?

 

 

Good thing

Bad thing

MIXED (vol.)

No opinion

         
 

%

%

%

%

2001 Jun 11-17

       

National Adults

75

19

4

2

Men

81

15

3

1

Women

69

23

5

3

         

Non-Hispanic Whites

75

19

4

2

Blacks

63

27

7

3

Hispanics

75

17

2

6



Which do you think is better for the United States -- [ROTATED: to encourage immigrants to blend into American culture by giving up some important aspects of their own culture, or to encourage immigrants to maintain their own culture more strongly, even if that means they do not blend in as well]?

 

 


Blend in

Maintain own culture more

BOTH/EQUALLY (vol.)

No
opinion

         
 

%

%

%

%

2001 Jun 11-17

       

National Adults

58

34

5

3

Men

59

34

4

3

Women

57

34

5

4

         

Non-Hispanic Whites

61

31

5

3

Blacks

48

43

4

5

Hispanics

45

49

2

4



NATIONAL ADULT TREND

 

 


Blend in

Maintain own culture more

BOTH/EQUALLY (vol.)

No
opinion

         

2001 Jun 11-17

58%

34

5

3

1995 Jun 5-6

59%

32

3

6



For each of the following areas, please say whether immigrants to the United States are making the situation in the country better or worse, or not having much effect. How about -- [ITEM A, THEN ITEMS B-I ROTATED]?

A. The overall quality of life

 

 


Better


Worse

Not having
much effect

No
opinion

         
 

%

%

%

%

2001 Jun 11-17

       

National Adults

30

24

41

5

Men

35

19

41

5

Women

26

28

41

5

         

Non-Hispanic Whites

28

27

41

4

Blacks

27

25

44

4

Hispanics

58

10

27

5



B. The quality of public schools

 

 


Better


Worse

Not having
much effect

No
opinion

         
 

%

%

%

%

2001 Jun 11-17

       

National Adults

18

40

37

5

Men

19

38

38

5

Women

17

42

35

6

         

Non-Hispanic Whites

16

43

36

5

Blacks

20

36

40

4

Hispanics

48

22

24

6



C. The crime situation

 

 


Better


Worse

Not having
much effect

No
opinion

         
 

%

%

%

%

2001 Jun 11-17

       

National Adults

7

50

38

5

Men

8

48

39

5

Women

6

52

37

5

         

Non-Hispanic Whites

5

54

37

4

Blacks

9

44

41

6

Hispanics

12

47

33

8



D. Job opportunities for you and your family

 

 


Better


Worse

Not having
much effect

No
opinion

         
 

%

%

%

%

2001 Jun 11-17

       

National Adults

15

31

50

4

Men

17

29

49

5

Women

13

34

51

2

         

Non-Hispanic Whites

12

32

53

3

Blacks

20

38

41

1

Hispanics

42

18

37

3



E. Food, music, and the arts

 

 


Better


Worse

Not having
much effect

No
opinion

         
 

%

%

%

%

2001 Jun 11-17

       

National Adults

58

8

29

5

Men

63

6

25

6

Women

55

9

32

4

         

Non-Hispanic Whites

59

8

28

5

Blacks

54

10

33

3

Hispanics

72

3

23

2



F. The economy in general

 

 


Better


Worse

Not having
much effect

No
opinion

         
 

%

%

%

%

2001 Jun 11-17

       

National Adults

32

32

31

5

Men

38

26

32

4

Women

26

38

30

6

         

Non-Hispanic Whites

29

34

32

5

Blacks

27

39

31

3

Hispanics

42

23

29

6



G. Taxes

 

 


Better


Worse

Not having
much effect

No
opinion

         
 

%

%

%

%

2001 Jun 11-17

       

National Adults

12

46

34

8

Men

16

41

35

8

Women

9

51

32

8

         

Non-Hispanic Whites

10

48

34

8

Blacks

12

50

32

6

Hispanics

40

26

25

9



H. Politics and government

 

 


Better


Worse

Not having
much effect

No
opinion

         
 

%

%

%

%

2001 Jun 11-17

       

National Adults

23

24

47

6

Men

24

22

48

6

Women

21

26

47

6

         

Non-Hispanic Whites

20

26

48

6

Blacks

23

27

43

7

Hispanics

42

16

32

10



I. Social and moral values

 

 


Better


Worse

Not having
much effect

No
opinion

         
 

%

%

%

%

2001 Jun 11-17

       

National Adults

25

26

45

4

Men

26

24

47

3

Women

23

27

44

6

         

Non-Hispanic Whites

22

29

45

4

Blacks

26

20

50

4

Hispanics

45

17

34

4



(vol.) – volunteered response

Get Articles in Related Topics:


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/4693/Americans-Mixed-Opinions-About-Immigration.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030