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Plurality in U.S. Says Southern Border Situation Is 'Crisis'

Plurality in U.S. Says Southern Border Situation Is 'Crisis'

Story Highlights

  • 39% think U.S.-Mexico border situation is “crisis,” 33% “major problem”
  • Republicans more likely than in 2019 to call it a crisis; Democrats less
  • More sympathy for migrants at border than for immigrants living illegally in U.S.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A 39% plurality of Americans think the situation at the United States-Mexico border is a “crisis,” 33% a “major problem,” 22% a “minor problem” and 5% “not a problem,” which is essentially unchanged from the previous reading in 2019.

The stability in the readings masks a shift in partisans’ views, as Democrats’ description of the situation as a crisis fell 20 percentage points to 17%, offsetting increases of 13 points among Republicans and seven points among independents.

With fewer Democrats calling the situation a crisis, more now call it a major (39%) or minor (36%) problem than did so in 2019. Still, taken together, majorities in each party group say the border situation is either a crisis or a major problem.


These findings are from a Gallup poll conducted June 1-22, several weeks after the expiration of Title 42, the policy enacted by the Trump administration in March 2020 that allowed U.S. officials to quickly send asylum-seekers back over the border without a hearing. The policy was aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, and it ended when the national emergency declaration expired on May 11. Many congressional Democrats pushed to end Title 42 earlier, which President Joe Biden unsuccessfully attempted in 2022, while many Republicans wanted it to become law as a means to deter migrants. This difference is reflected in the gap in partisans’ perceptions of the border situation.

While many expected a surge of migrants at the southern U.S. border when the policy expired, it has not come to pass. After increasing five points in May to 13%, Americans’ mentions of immigration as the nation’s most important problem fell back to 8% in June.

Sympathy for Migrants Higher Than for Immigrants Currently Living Illegally in U.S.

Americans are more sympathetic to the people who come to the U.S. border hoping to enter the country than they are toward immigrants who are already living in the U.S. illegally. Overall, 78% of U.S. adults are sympathetic toward migrants wanting to enter the country, including 35% who are very sympathetic. That compares with 64% sympathetic (and 23% very sympathetic) toward those who have crossed the border illegally into the U.S. The gap may reflect the reality that those in the country broke the law to be here.


This is the third time Gallup has asked Americans about their sympathy toward immigrants currently living in the U.S. illegally. The previous reading, in 2010, was similar to the latest one. However, in 2006, extreme sympathy for immigrants living in the country illegally was somewhat lower, with 17% very sympathetic.

There is a sharp partisan difference in current levels of sympathy, as a majority of Democrats, 57%, are very sympathetic toward migrants at the U.S. border, compared with 36% of independents and 5% of Republicans. Yet, when adding in those who are somewhat sympathetic, those figures swell to 90% for Democrats, 79% for independents and 64% for Republicans.

All three partisan groups are less sympathetic toward immigrants residing illegally in the U.S., but the very and somewhat combined readings for Democrats (75%) and independents (68%) are at the majority level while slightly below that among Republicans (48%).


Bottom Line

Nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults think the situation at the southern U.S. border is a crisis or a major problem, even after Title 42 has expired and the expected influx of migrants did not happen. The Biden administration has tried to ebb the flow of migrants by changing asylum guidelines, but it remains to be seen if this will be a temporary fix or a permanent solution.

Americans are, however, sympathetic toward those seeking to enter the U.S., as well as, to a lesser extent, those who have entered the country illegally. Biden’s latest plan is to encourage those who are seeking asylum to do so from their home country rather than travel to the U.S. border and try to gain asylum after crossing illegally. The administration has also warned that those crossing illegally can be immediately deported and will jeopardize their chances of gaining asylum in the future.

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