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Social & Policy Issues
In U.S., Support for Decreasing Immigration Holds Steady
Social & Policy Issues

In U.S., Support for Decreasing Immigration Holds Steady

Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • 38% want to see immigration levels decreased, similar to recent years
  • 21% want immigration levels increased
  • Three times as many Republicans as Democrats want it decreased

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Despite Donald Trump's continued emphasis on the harmful effects of various types of immigrants coming to the U.S., there is no evidence of a surge in the percentage of Americans wanting to see immigration levels decreased. Thirty-eight percent of U.S. adults say the level of immigration should be decreased, similar to recent years, while an equal percentage say immigration should be kept at its present level. The relatively small percentage of Americans who want immigration increased, however, has edged down this year to 21%.

U.S. Adults' Preferences on U.S. Immigration Levels

Since 2012, Americans generally have remained split between maintaining the current level of immigration and decreasing immigration, with less interest in increasing immigration. By contrast, before 2012 -- and particularly in the years immediately after 9/11 -- Americans tended to be more in favor of decreased immigration.

Gallup's question about changes in the volume of "immigration" does not specify whether it is legal or illegal, meaning respondents could, in theory, be taking both into account.

Immigration has been a major focus of Trump's presidential campaign since it began, including proposals to restrict the number of low-wage workers coming into the U.S. legally. He has also proposed restricting legal immigration among those who come from certain regions of the world with a history of exporting terrorism, who don't pass an ideology test or who identify with the Muslim faith. Trump has also proposed building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to prevent illegal immigration and to deport the millions of immigrants living illegally in the U.S. -- although news reports now indicate that he may alter his position on that issue.

Partisanship Creates the Biggest Divide on Immigration Attitudes

Americans' views on changes in the volume of immigration vary across key subgroups, particularly along party and ideological lines. Republicans and conservatives are most likely to want immigration decreased, while Democrats and liberals are least likely to want it decreased. The range across the political and ideological subgroups goes from 60% of Republicans and Republican leaners who want immigration decreased down to 20% among Democrats and Democratic leaners.

In your view, should immigration be kept at its present level, increased or decreased?
In rank order by percent "Decreased"
  Decreased Kept at present level Increased
  % % %
Republicans/Republican leaners 60 27 11
Conservatives 58 27 12
Non-Hispanic whites 42 36 20
Born in U.S. and parent born in U.S. 40 36 21
National adults 38 38 21
Hispanics 35 43 18
Born in U.S., but parent not born in U.S. 35 42 21
Hispanics born in Mexico 35 44 15
Moderates 32 44 23
Not born in U.S. 26 45 24
Non-Hispanic blacks 25 43 30
Liberals 21 45 31
Democrats/Democratic leaners 20 46 31
June 7-July 1, 2016

There is less variation among racial and ethnic groups in views on immigration levels. Whites are somewhat more likely than Hispanics to want immigration decreased, while blacks are the least likely. The small group of those interviewed who identify as immigrants (12% of survey respondents in this poll) are somewhat less likely to want immigration decreased than are those who have been in the U.S. for at least two generations (26% vs. 40%, respectively). Twenty-four percent of immigrants want immigration increased, not far from the overall sample average.

Most Americans Define Immigration in General as "Good"

A separate question confirms that most Americans (72%) believe that immigration is a "good thing for this country today." Americans' positive views about immigration dipped to a low point after 9/11 and have fluctuated since then, but the 72% and 73% "good thing" percentages measured in 2013, 2015 and this year are the highest in Gallup's trend dating back to 2001.

U.S. Adults Assessments of Immigration's Overall Impact on U.S.

Bottom Line

While most Americans believe immigration is good for the country, a relatively small percentage would like to see the nation's level of immigration increased, while the rest want it either to remain the same or to decrease. Despite the strong rhetoric on immigration emanating from the Trump presidential campaign, there has been no uptick in the past year of those wanting to see immigration decreased, suggesting that Trump is not so much changing public opinion as he is taking advantage of existing attitudes. Trump generally finds support for the idea of decreasing immigration among his conservative, Republican base. But the significantly lower level of support for decreasing immigration among non-Republicans underscores the challenge Trump faces in the general election -- given how closely tied he is to the issue -- and helps explain why he may be shifting his tone on some immigration-related policies.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 7-July 1, 2016, with a sample of 3,270 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, who had previously been interviewed in the Gallup Daily tracking poll and agreed to be re-interviewed for a later study. The sample is weighted to be representative of U.S. adults.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the sample of 1,320 non-Hispanic whites, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the sample of 912 non-Hispanic blacks, the margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the sample of 906 Hispanics, the margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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