Most Americans say immigration is a benefit to the nation and prefer it be kept at current levels or even increased, research by Gallup shows.
“Two-thirds of Americans consider immigration a good thing for the country, while 27% consider it a bad thing. The percentage calling it a good thing is down from its peak of 77% in 2020 and is the lowest Gallup has recorded since 2014 (when it was 63%),” the report said.
But the 68% who see immigration as a positive in the current survey exceeds the support measured from 2001 to 2012.
The June survey was conducted less than a month after the expiration of Title 42, a Trump-era policy that enabled authorities to swiftly deport migrants detained entering the U.S. illegally, thus preventing them from applying for asylum. The Biden administration responded with a policy greatly increasing the time it takes migrants to schedule asylum hearings and to remain in Mexico while they wait.
“Since Title 42 was suspended in mid-May, the number of illegal border crossings has declined sharply, partly because aspiring migrants are being encouraged to book appointments for asylum hearings through a mobile phone system called the CBP One App,” the report notes. “Additionally, the risk of being charged with a felony if deported under current policies may be discouraging people from attempting illegal crossings.”
These developments likely influenced the responses of some survey respondents, the report explains. “The sharp decline in illegal border crossings in June, after record-high numbers were registered in 2022 and much of 2021, may have lessened Americans’ concern about the issue this past month. In the June survey, 8% named immigration as the most important problem facing the country, down from 13% in May.”
But immigration remains a political hot button in the U.S. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been embroiled in a standoff with the White House over border security while he and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have bused and flown migrants to Democratic-controlled states in protest of federal immigration policies. Congress, meanwhile, has been at a standstill on immigration legislation, including the languishing Afghan Adjustment Act, a measure that would provide pathways to citizenship for Afghans who escaped to the U.S. after the fall of their country in 2021.
Gallup’s research confirms the role of partisanship in shaping Americans’ views on immigeration.
“While barely a quarter of Americans consider immigration a bad thing for the country, that view is far more prevalent among Republicans (43%) than Democrats (10%), with independents roughly matching the nation as a whole (28%). Still, half of Republicans consider it a good thing, as do 67% of independents and 87% of Democrats,” the report says.
Gallup has asked Americans since 1965 if they prefer an increase, decrease or maintenance of immigration levels. The inaugural study, conducted when Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, found 33% favored a decrease and 20% were uncertain. Only 7% preferred an increase.
“The next measures, from 1977 through the early 1990s, found the public even less supportive, with more wanting immigration decreased than kept the same or increased. However, attitudes softened by 2000, and the desire for less immigration continued to trend downward thereafter, reaching a low of 28% in 2020. At the same time, those favoring an increase more than doubled, rising from 13% in 2000 to the trend high of 34% in 2020.”
The summer 2023 survey found a slight uptick to 41% of Americans who want immigration levels to decrease, 26% who prefer an increase and 31% who want things held steady.
Gallup researchers noted significant changes in attitudes from the 1990s, when significant numbers from both parties favored reducing immigration, to today. “Since then, Republicans have maintained their preference for curtailing immigration. By contrast, even with dips in their support this year, Democrats and independents have grown more supportive than they were a decade or more ago.”
In other findings:
- 54% of Americans think immigrants make the country better rather than worse when it comes to food, music and the arts.
- 32% also say immigrants make social and moral values better rather than worse (25%).
- 55% of Americans believe immigrants make the drug problem worse.
- 39% say immigrants help the economy and 38% saying they hurt it, although economic data from multiple sources show immigrants not only help the U.S. economy but are essential to its success.
The economic message presents a stark divide between Republicans and Democrats. Democrats today are solidly positive (62%) in saying immigrants make the economy better, while only 14% of Republicans believe the same and a majority (64%) believe immigrants make the economy worse.