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Americans Still Value Immigration, but Have Concerns

Americans Still Value Immigration, but Have Concerns

Story Highlights

  • 68% of Americans say immigration is good for the country today
  • Majority want level kept the same or increased; 41%, decreased
  • Close to half or more say immigrants make drugs, crime, taxes worse

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans remain largely supportive of U.S. immigration, with the majority saying it is good for the country and preferring to see immigration kept at its present level or increased rather than decreased. At the same time, they harbor concerns about the effect immigrants have on the country in some areas, especially on the crime and drug problems and, to a lesser extent, taxes.

The June 1-22 poll asks Americans about immigration and immigrants, generally, but likely reflects their views on both legal and illegal immigration. Prior Gallup research found Americans slightly more supportive of increased immigration and positive about the effect of immigration on the country when asked specifically about legal immigration than immigration generally.

Immigration Still Seen as Beneficial

Two-thirds of Americans consider immigration a good thing for the country, while 27% consider it a bad thing. The percentage calling it a good thing is down from its peak of 77% in 2020 and is the lowest Gallup has recorded since 2014 (when it was 63%).

However, the 68% currently saying immigration is a good thing is generally higher than was the case in the first decade of the trend, from 2001 through 2012.


While barely a quarter of Americans consider immigration a bad thing for the country, that view is far more prevalent among Republicans (43%) than Democrats (10%), with independents roughly matching the nation as a whole (28%). Still, half of Republicans consider it a good thing, as do 67% of independents and 87% of Democrats.

The poll was conducted after the Biden administration lifted emergency regulations employed during the pandemic, known as Title 42, that had allowed border control officers to immediately deport people caught entering the U.S. illegally rather than give them an asylum hearing.

Since Title 42 was suspended in mid-May, the number of illegal border crossings has declined sharply, partly because aspiring migrants are being encouraged to book appointments for asylum hearings through a mobile phone system called the CBP One App. Additionally, the risk of being charged with a felony if deported under current policies may be discouraging people from attempting illegal crossings.

The sharp decline in illegal border crossings in June, after record-high numbers were registered in 2022 and much of 2021, may have lessened Americans’ concern about the issue this past month. In the June survey, 8% named immigration as the most important problem facing the country, down from 13% in May.

Growing Minority Wants Immigration Curtailed

Gallup takes the public’s temperature on the volume of immigration by asking if immigration should be kept at its present level, increased or decreased. This was first measured in 1965, when Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 that reformed federal immigration policy. That poll found few in favor of increasing immigration (7%), while the rest were split between wanting it kept the same (39%), wanting it decreased (33%) or unsure (20%).

The next measures, from 1977 through the early 1990s, found the public even less supportive, with more wanting immigration decreased than kept the same or increased. However, attitudes softened by 2000, and the desire for less immigration continued to trend downward thereafter, reaching a low of 28% in 2020. At the same time, those favoring an increase more than doubled, rising from 13% in 2000 to the trend high of 34% in 2020.

Given the major increase in the number of migrants seeking to enter the U.S. at the Southern border in recent years, Americans’ desire for less immigration has ticked upward, now reaching 41%. This exceeds the 26% who now want more immigration and is the highest since 2014.


Partisans Growing Further Apart on Immigration

Currently, 73% of Republicans, matching the prior high from 1995, want immigration decreased, while 10% want it increased, meaning their net preference for more immigration is -63. By contrast, 40% of Democrats want it increased, while just 18% want it decreased -- a +22 net preference score. Independents still tilt negative, with 27% wanting it increased and 39% increased, or -12.

Today’s differences in immigration views by party are markedly different from the 1990s, when large proportions of both Republicans and Democrats favored a decrease in immigration. Since then, Republicans have maintained their preference for curtailing immigration. By contrast, even with dips in their support this year, Democrats and independents have grown more supportive than they were a decade or more ago.


Immigrants Seen as Asset to Culture but Some Downsides

A different question provides more detail on how Americans perceive the impact immigrants have on the U.S., asking if they make the situation better or worse in each of seven areas.

More than half of Americans, 54%, think immigrants make the country better rather than worse when it comes to “food, music and the arts.” More also say immigrants make social and moral values better (32%) rather than worse (25%). At the same time, the majority say they make the drug problem worse (55%), and far more -- though less than majorities -- think immigrants worsen the nation’s crime situation and taxes than say they improve these things.

The public is split on whether immigrants help (39%) or hurt (38%) the country economically. And while the majority say immigrants have no effect on job opportunities for themselves and their families, more see immigrants as a detriment in this area (26%) than an asset (18%).


Gallup has previously measured public perceptions of immigrants’ effect on all of these areas except the drug problem, finding them viewed in roughly the same rank order as today.

Americans’ net-positive views of immigrants’ effect (the percentage saying they make the situation better minus the percentage saying worse) are slightly lower today than in the most recent prior measurements, in 2017 and 2019. This decline is seen particularly for the perceived effect immigrants have on culture, the economy, taxes and crime, while views haven’t changed much with respect to immigrants’ effect on social values and job opportunities.

On the other hand, the average net-positive rating today is higher than the average Gallup found from 2004 to 2007, when far fewer valued immigrants’ influence on culture, social and moral values, the economy, job opportunities, and taxes. Current perceptions about immigrants’ effect on social and moral values, job opportunities and taxes are also a bit higher than in 2001-2002.


Again, sizable partisan differences exist in views about immigrants, with far more Republicans than Democrats saying they make the country worse in each respect. Independents’ views fall in between, although slightly closer to Democrats’ than Republicans’ in all areas except crime and taxes, where they are right in the middle.


And mirroring the widening gap in partisans’ views about the level of immigration, Democrats’ views of immigrants’ effect on the country in each area have grown increasingly positive, while Republicans’ have soured further.

The change has been particularly stark with respect to the economy. Whereas the three party groups were similarly split from 2001 through 2004 over whether immigrants made the economy better or worse, Democrats have since become solidly positive (62% now say they make the economy better versus 17% worse), while Republicans have gone in the other direction (14% better and 64% worse). After becoming slightly more positive about immigrants' effect on the economy in 2017 and 2018, independents’ views are back to what they were in 2001.


Bottom Line

Americans are a bit less supportive of immigration now than in the past few years. However, largely because of a major pro-immigrant shift in Democrats’ views, the country as a whole is more positive toward immigration than it was in the 1990s and early 2000s. This is seen in national preferences for the level of immigration as well as views of whether immigrants help or hurt the country overall and in several specific areas.

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