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Americans Showing Increased Concern About Immigration

Americans Showing Increased Concern About Immigration

Story Highlights

  • Americans satisfied with immigration level down six points to 28%
  • Percentage dissatisfied because they want less immigration rises to 40%
  • Desire to curb immigration up across parties, but GOP leads by far

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans’ satisfaction with the level of immigration into the U.S. has fallen six percentage points over the past year, from 34% in January 2022 to 28% today. This is the lowest reading in a decade, though not the least satisfied Americans have been on this issue over the past 23 years.

U.S. public satisfaction with immigration was scarcest in 2007 and 2008, at 23% and 24%, respectively, whereas it reached 40%-41% at its highest, in 2017 and 2018.


Gallup measures Americans’ satisfaction with the level of U.S. immigration and numerous other issues each January as part of its annual Mood of the Nation survey. From 2001 through 2016, immigration consistently ranked at or near the bottom of the list of satisfaction ratings. Since then, it has scored slightly better, although still ranking in the bottom half of issues.

In the latest poll, conducted Jan. 2-22, satisfaction with immigration is on par with the quality of public education (29% satisfied) and policies to reduce or control crime (27%) but ahead of efforts to address poverty (15%) and the nation’s campaign finance laws (14%).

The recent shift in U.S. attitudes no doubt reflects the situation at the Southern border, where the U.S. government reported a fourfold annual increase in migrants attempting to enter the U.S. in 2021, with the figure rising to 1.7 million. More than 2 million such migrant encounters occurred in 2022. And the Department of Homeland Security estimates the figure could double if a pandemic-era policy allowing border agents to expel migrants without giving them an opportunity to seek asylum is revoked.

Desire for Less Immigration Drives Dissatisfaction

The flip side of 28% of Americans being satisfied with immigration is that 63% are dissatisfied.

In a follow-up question, most of the dissatisfied group (64%, equivalent to 40% of U.S. adults) say they want immigration decreased. Far fewer, 8% of Americans, are dissatisfied because they want it increased, while the remaining 15% are dissatisfied but want the level to remain the same or are unsure.

The percentage who are dissatisfied out of a desire for less immigration has risen sharply over the past two years, increasing from 19% in 2021 to 35% in 2022 and 40% today. This is still not as high as it was in the first few years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when it ranged from 44% to 52%, but is the highest since 2016.


More in All Party Groups Dissatisfied and Want Immigration Curbed

The desire to curb immigration has increased across all party groups since 2021 but remains far more common among Republicans than independents or Democrats.

  • The percentage of Republicans dissatisfied with immigration levels for being too high jumped from 40% in 2021 to 69% in 2022 and remains about the same today, at 71%.
  • The percentage of Democrats dissatisfied and desiring less immigration was nearly nonexistent in 2021, at 2%, before rising to 11% last year and 19% now.
  • Independents’ dissatisfaction and preference for less immigration has about doubled since 2021, rising from 19% at that time to 36% today.

Republicans’ displeasure with immigration for being too high is now the highest Gallup has recorded for that party. On the other hand, despite increasing in recent years, this viewpoint is less common today among independents and especially Democrats than it was in the post-9/11 years.


Overall, a majority of Democrats, 52%, remain satisfied with the level of immigration (40%) or want it increased (12%). This contrasts with a combined 39% of independents and 14% of Republicans who are similarly supportive.


The large gap in satisfaction with immigration levels between Republicans and Democrats is notable, given where the issue ranks among other issues measured in the January poll. With only 10% of Republicans satisfied, immigration ranks at the bottom of their issue list, below satisfaction with the economy and what Americans pay in federal taxes. Immigration falls closer to the middle of the pack for Democrats and independents, seen in this sortable graph.


Concern About Immigration Spikes Among Older Americans

Along with the changes by party, dissatisfaction with immigration stemming from a desire to see it decreased has surged among older Americans, those 55 and older, rising from 21% in 2021 to 55% today.

Over the same period, it has also increased a sizable amount among middle-aged adults, aged 35 to 54, rising from 23% to 40%, while showing little change among younger adults.


Bottom Line

Amid news of the migrant surge along the border with Mexico and the humanitarian and political problems arising from it, Americans across the political spectrum have grown less content with the level of U.S. immigration in recent years. Still, the issue remains highly partisan, with the vast majority of Republicans concerned that there is too much immigration, compared with a modest proportion of independents and a relatively small proportion of Democrats.

Separate from the party trends, immigration has also piqued older Americans’ concern, with more wanting it curbed, while young adults' views are steady, with few espousing that.

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