Our Take on the Latest Polling and Public Opinion on Immigration
Washington, DC – Recent Gallup polling and related coverage has refocused attention on American public opinion on immigration and immigrants. Below is our take, on both the Gallup poll and the larger state of play of public sentiment on immigration:
Putting the Gallup findings in context of larger American immigration public opinion:
The common thread between Americans’ immigration sentiments is a desire for reform instead of the status quo and several points of overwhelming consensus – including solutions that balance border control and an orderly process for new arrivals with support for citizenship for the undocumented population and fair asylum access.
While the Gallup findings (see below) indicate mixed support by some voters around questions of how much immigration – no option receives a majority – other immigration policy topics are points of consensus among a strong majority of the American public. Of note:
- NBC News polling from January 2023 found that, per their “First Read” political newsletter: “Two of the most popular policies Americans say the new 118th Congress should consider are — drum roll, please — immigration reform and border security. That’s according to our most recent NBC News poll, which tested seven different policy proposals.”
- By 80-18% margin, NBC respondents supported “providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements”
- By 72-25% margin, respondents supported “addressing immigration by increasing funding for border security.”
The NBC poll findings are backed by a number of other polls showing overwhelming support for citizenship; strong support for asylum access; and preference for a balanced approach that pairs citizenship and border security instead of GOP enforcement-only alternatives. Specifically:
- Overwhelming and consistent support for citizenship for Dreamers and other deeply rooted undocumented immigrants in poll after poll: November 2022 battleground polling found three-in-four voters support citizenship for Dreamers and the broader undocumented population. Year after year and poll after poll, we see the same result: approximately 70-80 percent of the country want Congress to finally deliver permanent legal status (see a snapshot of related polling here and here).
- Strong support for asylum access: December 2022 LA Times/YouGov polling found a 55–23% margin of support for offering asylum for those fleeing persecution, including majorities of Democrats and Independents and a plurality of Republican respondents. An earlier November poll released by the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at U.C. San Diego and the #WelcomeWithDignity asylum rights campaign found 73% support for offering asylum to people fleeing persecution and/or violence in their home country.
- Preference for balanced, “citizenship and border” reform package instead of GOP enforcement-only policy. In the 12,000+ sample Midterm Election Voter Poll, for example, by a 57-43% margin, respondents preferred a policy that paired citizenship and border security instead of the “enforcement first” approach.
Details and context from the Gallup poll:
The latest annual release from Gallup finds rising dissatisfaction with levels of immigration into the country – perhaps unsurprising given the recent relentless focus on generally misleading border numbers and overall dissatisfaction among Americans for the direction the country is taking. For several years, Republicans and their media allies – who have given this issue hundreds of millions of dollars worth of attention – have attacked immigration and Democrats, not just simply elevating fears about border security, but adopting talking points from white nationalist conspiracies about an “invasion” that threatens to “replace” white America with immigrants, while falsely tying issues like fentanyl to immigration. A close read of the Gallup poll indicates, however, that the underlying poll numbers aren’t nearly as anti-immigrant or historically anomalous as initial coverage and conclusions would suggest. Specifically:
- The new Gallup poll finds 28% of respondents were satisfied with current levels of immigration into the country, while 63% were dissatisfied:
- 40% of overall respondents, a plurality, were dissatisfied and wanted decreased levels of immigration into the country
- 28% were satisfied with current levels of immigration
- 15% expressed dissatisfaction but wanted levels of immigration to remain about the same
- 8% were dissatisfied and wanted increased levels of immigration
- Grouped differently: a combined 43% were satisfied with current levels of immigration (28%) or wanted it to remain about the same (15%) while 40% wanted decreased levels of immigration and 8% wanted increased levels of immigration
- The 40% figure of respondents wanting decreased levels of immigration is up from 35% in the 2022 poll and the historic low of 19% in the 2021 poll, but lower than the similar figures from 2016 (43%); 2012 (42%); and 2002-2008 (between 44% and 52%)