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Americans Widely Favor Welcoming Ukrainian Refugees

Americans Widely Favor Welcoming Ukrainian Refugees

Story Highlights

  • 78% in U.S. approve of admitting up to 100,000 fleeing Ukrainians
  • Majorities of Democrats and Republicans back the proposal
  • Support is highest for any refugee situation Gallup has polled on

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Seventy-eight percent of Americans say they would approve of "allowing up to 100,000" Ukrainian refugees into the United States as the process to do just that gets underway. This is the highest level of U.S. public support for admitting refugees that Gallup has found in its polling on various refugee situations since 1939.


The United Nations estimates more than five million people have fled Ukraine, mostly entering Poland, Romania and other Eastern European countries. President Joe Biden has thus far committed to admitting up to 100,000 refugees into the United States, and on Friday announced a plan to expedite the steps Ukrainian refugees must take for legal entry.

The latest results are based on a Gallup poll of U.S. adults conducted April 1-19.

The prior high in support for accepting refugees in Gallup polling was in 1999, when 66% approved of receiving "several hundred ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo." The only other time a majority approved was in 2018, when 51% backed taking "thousands" of refugees from Honduras and other Central American countries.

No other refugee appeal has been supported by even four in 10 Americans, with support ranging from 16% in 1946 for taking in an expanded number of European refugees during World War II to 37% in 2015 for admitting "at least 10,000" Syrian refugees.

The last time Gallup asked about the U.S. receiving people fleeing Russian aggression was in 1958 in reference to Hungarians leaving their country after the Soviet army crushed a Hungarian uprising against Soviet occupation in 1956. Just 33% of Americans then approved of accepting 160,000 Hungarian refugees.

Bipartisan Support for Admitting Ukrainians

Americans' approval today for admitting Ukrainian refugees is widespread, with large majorities of all major demographic subgroups -- by gender, age, education and region -- in favor of the proposal.

Support for admitting Ukrainian refugees is also bipartisan with 92% of Democrats, 79% of independents and 61% of Republicans approving. Although the 31 percentage-point gap between Democrats and Republicans is significant, it is not nearly as wide as the 68-point and 42-point gaps found for admitting Central American refugees in 2018 or Syrian refugees in 2015. In both of those situations, one occurring during Barack Obama's presidency and one during Donald Trump's presidency, large majorities of Democrats approved while most Republicans disapproved.

By contrast, the three political party groups expressed equal support for admitting several hundred refugees from Kosovo in 1999, while about a third of each approved of admitting refugees from Vietnam in 1979, also described then as "boat people."


Bottom Line

Before Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the majority of Americans (62%) had a favorable view of Ukraine, far more than viewed Russia favorably (15%). Now that the atrocities of war are mounting and driving millions out of the country, nearly four in five Americans are ready to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.

While a record high, this level of support is all the more remarkable because it pertains to one of the larger influxes of refugees that Gallup has tested. Although numbers of proposed refugees don't explain all differences in U.S. reaction historically, prior to now, majority support had been reserved for refugees in the "hundreds" or "thousands," but not hundreds-of-thousands.

According to Gallup's Migrant Acceptance Index, the United States is relatively welcoming of migrants compared with other countries -- ranking sixth out of 145 countries rated in 2019. The index is based on three questions measuring people's acceptance of migrants in their own country. But with Americans' support for admitting refugees from different parts of the world ranging from 37% to 78% just within the last decade, Americans clearly evaluate refugee situations on a case-by-case basis.

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Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).


Lydia Saad is the Director of U.S. Social Research at Gallup.

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