Immigration policy has been a central focus of President Trump’s administration since he announced his candidacy in a speech in which he said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Results from the Chapman University of American Fears show that a majority of Americans do not currently share the President’s concerns over immigration. In fact, at the time this survey was conducted, more Americans expressed concern over the President than illegal immigration. When asked if President Trump had ever made them feel afraid, a majority, 58.7%, responded yes. When asked if they were afraid of illegal immigration, a majority, 59.3% reported that they were not afraid (other responses to this item: 9.3% reported very afraid, 12.2% reported afraid, and 19.3% reported slightly afraid).
It should be noted that this survey was conducted during the period when the Trump administration’s family separation policy was a top news story, creating a firestorm of criticism that forced the administration to change course. The news cycle may have affected these results.
American Opinion on Immigrants
Anti-immigrant sentiment has a long history in the United States. The late 19th century, German, Irish, and especially Chinese immigrants were targets of broad political movements, with Chinese immigration banned by Congress in 1882. In the early 20th century, the focus of concern was on immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe.
At this point in our history, the proportion of Americans expressing concern about immigrants is a minority, though a significant one — roughly one out of 3.
Percent expressing agreement with the following statements:
|Strongly Agree or Agree||Disagree or Strongly Disagree|
|Immigrants are more likely to commit crime than U.S. citizens.||18.6||81.4|
|Recent immigrants are more reluctant to assimilate than previous immigrants.||38.9||61.1|
|Immigrants are a drain on the economy.||35.7||64.3|
|Immigrants bring diseases into the United States.||28.8||71.2|
|Police should be allowed to raid businesses and homes in order to find undocumented workers.||29.3||70.7|
|Deportation is a good solution for immigration issues.||40.4||59.6|
|Creating a “pathway to citizenship” will encourage illegal immigration.||29.1||70.9|
|America should cease all immigration from Muslim countries.||20.7||79.3|
|America should build a wall on the border with Mexico.||35.6||64.4|
Political Orientation and Opinions on Immigrants
When we look at anti-immigrant sentiment by political orientation, the overall results are what one would probably predict. Those who identify as conservative are more likely to hold anti-immigrant opinions. Of particular interest, however, are the opinions of those in the middle groups – those who define themselves as moderates or leaning toward conservative or liberal positions. Large majorities of moderates and those leaning liberal do not hold anti-immigrant opinions. Among those who lean conservative, there is majority support for only three of the nine items. This suggests that anti-immigrant rhetoric is unlikely to appeal to swing voters.
Percent reporting “Strongly Agree” or “Agree” to the following statements:
|Extremely Conservative||Conservative||Leaning Conservative||Moderate||Leaning Liberal||Liberal||Extremely Liberal|
|Immigrants are more likely to commit crime than U.S. citizens.||45||40.4||27.1||16.8||2.2||1.2||1.3|
|Recent immigrants are more reluctant to assimilate than previous immigrants.||59||66.4||57.9||35.3||23.5||14.7||14.9|
|Immigrants are a drain on the economy.||80.3||63.8||48.9||34.2||11.1||6.5||16.2|
|Immigrants bring diseases into the United States.||65||48.3||37.5||30.3||6.6||7.5||12|
|Police should be allowed to raid businesses and homes in order to find undocumented workers.||60||55.3||46.1||26.2||6.6||6.5||12.7|
|Deportation is a good solution for immigration issues.||73.8||73.8||66.4||36.2||15.5||11||10.8|
|Creating a “pathway to citizenship” will encourage illegal immigration.||68.3||45.4||40.6||29.3||10.3||8.1||13.4|
|America should cease all immigration from Muslim countries.||64||41||28.9||16.4||3.7||1.8||10.8|
|America should build a wall on the border with Mexico.||76.7||78.1||56.3||29.6||2.9||4.6||10.8|