The Pew report on population growth and immigration that was released on September 28, which projected that immigration would add 103 million people to the U.S. population between 2015 and 2065, accounting for 88 percent of total population growth, also contained polling data on attitudes about immigration policy (pages 121-127).
The “nationally representative bilingual survey of 3,147 adults” yielded reliable results. However, if the sample had been narrowed to include only registered or likely voters, U.S. citizens, or even legal residents, it likely would have shown even more support for cuts in legal immigration and stronger actions to deter illegal immigration.
A plurality of those polled (45%) said that the current immigration system makes American society better in the long-run, but 37 percent said it makes society worse, only an eight-point difference (Question 3, p. 123). One explanation for such a strong negative response likely comes from the view of many that the overall immigration level is too high. Almost half (49%) want to see the level of immigration decreased, while only 15 percent want an increase; one-third answered that immigration should be kept at its present level (Question 7, p. 123). Notably, respondents weren’t told what that level is.
Native-born Americans clearly favor less immigration at 51 percent, while two-thirds of Republicans and one-third of Democrats want immigration reduced (p. 62). This shows that most Americans, including an overwhelmingly majority of Republicans and a sizeable minority of Democrats, are at odds with the leadership of both major parties when it comes to immigration policy.
The reason that people favor less immigration becomes clear when they are asked about its effect on society. The negative responses far outweigh the positive when it comes to the question of whether or not immigration policy is making things better or worse in relation to crime, the economy, jobs, schools, and social and moral values. Respondents thought immigration was good for food, music, the arts, and science and technology (Questions 89, pp. 123-124). The positive response to immigration’s benefit to science and technology is in-line with the 56 percent who believe that high-skilled immigrants should be given priority for admission over those who have family already residing in the United States.
The Pew polling data is very important because it confirms that Americans, while welcoming to immigrants, want lower levels of immigration. Pew is a respected think-tank and this report will continue to inform reporting that is done on the issue. Whether this changes the thinking of policy-makers in D.C. remains to be seen, but it is clear that support for lower levels of immigration is still the mainstream position.
ERIC RUARK is the Director of Research for NumbersUSA
Updated: Tue, Oct 13th 2015 @ 1:40pm EDT