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Coming to America

Chart: data points are described in article

Nearly 150 million people -- or 4% of the world's adult population -- would move to the U.S. if they could. That figure is larger than the next four most popular destinations combined. If everyone who wanted to move to the U.S. had their way, the country's total population would increase by almost 50%.

Top Desired Destinations for Potential Migrants
in millions
United States 147
Germany 39
Canada 36
United Kingdom 35
France 32
Australia 30
Saudi Arabia 25
Spain 20
Italy 15
Switzerland 13
Gallup World Poll

As many as 37 million people in Latin America would like to relocate to the U.S. permanently, making it the region where a move to the U.S. is most popular. Approximately one-third of all Dominicans and Hondurans want to become Americans.

Countries Where People Want to Move to the U.S.
Dominican Republic 34
Liberia 33
Honduras 30
Sierra Leone 28
Haiti 28
El Salvador 24
Ghana 19
Guatemala 17
Jamaica 16
Ethiopia 15
Gallup World Poll

Not surprisingly, the countries with the world's largest populations, such as China and India, have the greatest numbers of people who want to become Americans. But their overall percentages remain small: Only 1% to 2% of people in those countries want to move to the U.S.

But not all large countries have millions of people eager to move here. Two notable examples are Pakistan and Russia, and politics may be why people in these countries don't want to move to the U.S. Those countries dislike U.S. leadership more than almost every other country in the world. On the other hand, Russians may just really like living in Russia -- they are among the least likely people in the world to want to move away from their country.

Countries With Most People Who Want to Move to the U.S.
in millions
China 16
India 15
Brazil 11
Ethiopia 8
Nigeria 7
Mexico 7
Bangladesh 5
Philippines 3
Japan 3
Congo (Kinshasa) 3
Gallup World Poll

People who want to move to the U.S. -- as with potential migrants to other popular destinations -- are far younger and better educated than their compatriots who don't want to leave their country. Fifty-six percent of all people who want to move to the U.S. are between the ages of 15 to 29 -- far more than the general youth populations who want to remain home (31%). Almost 60% of them have between nine and 15 years of education (compared with 43% who want to remain), and 10% have completed more than that (compared with 9% who want to remain). These people are also attracted to the U.S. and other popular destinations for similar reasons.

The main draws to America appear to be two things: People know someone living here or they are looking for a good job.

America's popularity might also be because of its receptivity to migrants. Eight in 10 Americans say where they live is a good place for immigrants. Out of 140 countries surveyed, only 16 other countries best the U.S. on this metric. In fact, 71% of Americans think immigration is a good thing for the country, and 24% of Americans want immigration increased -- up from 6% in the 1990s.

America remains unusually attractive to people from all over the world -- in a way to which no other country compares. As Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, these data remind us that the world continues to see this country as a very special place -- one where 150 million more people would like to move if they could.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with nearly 590,000 adults, aged 15 and older, in 156 countries from 2013 to 2016. The 156 countries surveyed are home to 98% of the world's population.

For most countries, aggregated sample sizes (across multiple years of surveys) range between 3,000 and 6,000 interviews. A total of 12,000 interviews were conducted in India, 17,578 in China and 8,000 in Russia.

Gallup World Poll questions:

Ideally, if you had the opportunity, would you like to move permanently to another country, or would you prefer to continue living in this country?

(If "would like to move permanently to another country") To which country would you like to move? [open-ended, one response allowed]

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.


Jon Clifton is the CEO of Gallup.

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