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Recent Immigration Views: Cover the Melting Pot?

by Josephine Mazzuca

As Americans prepare to celebrate the first Independence Day since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, national security concerns have cast a new light on the country's status as a "melting pot" of cultures and ethnicities. Gallup recently asked a national sample of American adults for their opinions on the number of immigrants who are entering the United States. While most Americans can trace their ancestry to foreign soil, their sentiments on immigration are more favorable toward some groups than others. Not surprisingly, given the role of al Qaeda in the Sept. 11 attacks, Americans are least accepting of immigrants from Arab countries, while European immigrants are considered most acceptable. Interestingly, despite the current war on terrorism and the unstable economy, Americans seem to be more accepting of immigrants from all regions now than they were in 1993.

Arab Countries

According to a June 2002 Gallup Poll*, American anti-immigration sentiment is highest regarding those emigrating from Arab countries. Currently, a slight majority of Americans (54%) believe that there are "too many" immigrants from Arab countries, while a third (33%) think the number of immigrants from these countries is "about right." Surprisingly, however, although the percentage of people who believe there are too many Arab immigrants is the highest among the regions specified in the poll, it is lower than when this question was asked in 1993. At that time, almost two-thirds (64%) of Americans believed that there were too many Arab immigrants.

Latin American Countries

Immigrants from Latin America engender the second-highest "too many" figure from Americans. Almost half (46%) of those polled responded that there are too many immigrants from Latin American countries. (This percentage is down 16% from its 1993 level of 62%.) However, a similar number (41%) feel that the number is about right. Surprisingly, Hispanic Americans agreed with the negative sentiment and were more likely than other groups to believe that there are currently too many immigrants from Latin America. Specifically, half (50%) of Hispanics responded that there are too many immigrants from this region, while only about a third (35%) reported that the number is about right.

European, African and Asian Countries

More Americans believe that the current number of immigrants from Europe, Africa and Asia is at the right level than believe it is too high. The majority of Americans polled (53%) perceived the number of immigrants from European countries to be just the right amount and only a quarter of the population (25%) found it too high. Similar figures emerge for immigrants from African nations. Forty-eight percent of respondents believe immigration from that part of the world is at the right level, while 29% feel there are too many immigrants from African nations. Immigration levels from Asian nations are regarded somewhat less favorably, with 47% saying it is at the right level and 39% feeling it is too high.

As with Arab and Latin American countries, the percentage of Americans who feel the level of immigration from European, African and Asian countries is too high has dropped since 1993. In 1993, 33% of respondents felt that there were too many European immigrants, 44% believed there were too many immigrants from Africa, and 62% believed there were too many immigrants from Asian countries.

*Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,360 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted June 3-9, 2002, including oversamples of blacks and Hispanics that are weighted to reflect their proportions in the general population. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3%.


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