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Support for Allowing Border Refugees Into U.S. Edges Up

Support for Allowing Border Refugees Into U.S. Edges Up

Story Highlights

  • 57% approve admitting Central American refugees, up from 51% in December
  • Support for allowing refugees entry up among Republicans, independents
  • 39% say the situation at the U.S. border with Mexico is a "crisis"

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are slightly more likely now (57%) than in December of last year (51%) to support allowing refugees from Central America into the U.S.

Support for Taking Central American Refugees Into the U.S., December 2018 vs. July 2019
Next, as you may know, thousands of refugees have left Honduras and other Central American countries to escape the situation there. Would you approve or disapprove of allowing these refugees to come into this country?
Dec. 3-12, 2018 July 15-31, 2019 Change
% % (pct. points)
Approve 51 57 +6
Disapprove 43 39 -4
No opinion 6 4 -2
2018 wording: "…several thousand refugees…"

These data are from a July 15-31 Gallup poll.

Debate about the handling of refugees -- as well as who qualifies as a refugee -- comes as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports sharp spikes in the numbers of migrants coming to the U.S. border. The number of migrants coming to the border is much higher than was the case when Gallup last polled this question in December. Detention facilities have become overcrowded, sparking criticisms of the administration's handling of the situation.

Support for allowing Central American refugees entry is now higher than Gallup has found for most refugee cases it has polled on historically, including Syrian refugees in 2015 as well as stretching back to refugees from the German Holocaust in the 1930s and 40s. The only refugees that garnered higher support in Gallup trends were ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo during a period of ethnic cleansing there in 1999. At that time, 66% approved of the decision already made to bring "several hundred ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo" to the U.S.

Higher Support for Refugee Entry Due to Increase Among GOP, Independents

Among the three main U.S. partisan groups, Democrats remain most supportive of allowing the refugees entry, with the current 85% approving similar to the 82% recorded in December.

The largest increase in support has been among Republicans, from 14% in December to 24% now. Approval among independents increased slightly from 52% in December to 58% today.

Support for for Taking Central American Refugees Into the U.S., by Party
Dec. 3-12, 2018 Jul. 15-31, 2019 Change
% Approve % Approve (pct. points)
National adults 51 57 +6
Republicans 14 24 +10
Independents 52 58 +6
Democrats 82 85 +3

About Four in 10 Describe Situation at the Border as "Crisis" for the U.S.

Thirty-nine percent of Americans describe the situation at the U.S. border with Mexico as a "crisis," while nearly as many, 35%, call it a "major problem." Gallup has asked questions using this scale for dozens of domestic and international issues over the past quarter-century. Of the 69 circumstances Americans have been asked to rate with this scale, the latest question about the situation at the border garners the second-highest score for being a crisis -- second only to the federal government shutdown in January, when 41% said was a crisis.

Most Republicans (52%) say the situation at the border is a crisis, while roughly one in three independents (32%) and Democrats (37%) agree.

Views on the Severity of the Situation at the U.S. Border With Mexico
Do you, personally, consider the situation at the U.S. border with Mexico to be -- a crisis, a major problem, a minor problem or not a problem for the U.S.?
Crisis Major problem Minor problem Not a problem
% % % %
National adults 39 35 18 7
Republicans 52 36 9 3
Independents 32 38 21 7
Democrats 37 31 22 9
July 15-31, 2019

Bottom Line

If support for Central American refugee entry continues to increase, this could jeopardize President Donald Trump's immigration-related initiatives. The administration's initiatives have already endured setbacks ranging from high-profile criticisms, the resignation of the secretary of Homeland Security, condemnation from the UN and repeated court challenges to his various immigration policies. Most recently, the administration reversed a long-held U.S. asylum policy -- which would have barred nearly all the migrants currently at the border from seeking asylum status -- but this was blocked by a federal judge soon after Gallup's polling period. The final word on the asylum policy may be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Across party lines, significant majorities agree that the situation at the border is a "crisis" or "major problem," suggesting that Americans desire some government action on the matter. But many of Trump's policies and proposals on immigration have been unpopular -- and particularly so among Democrats. Trump and Congress did recently work together to increase funding for the border situation, but further action will continue to depend on Trump finding solutions that can pass the Democratic House of Representatives.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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