Poll Shows Wide Support for Lawful Immigrants

September 05, 2018

A majority of U.S. residents show support for legal immigrants and are skeptical of suggestions that undocumented immigrants commit more crimes as a group than native-born Americans, according to a new Grinnell College National Poll.

“People are aware of the politicization of the topic, and the president’s message hasn’t really translated into overwhelming support for restrictive immigration policy,” said Xavier Escandell, associate professor of anthropology, Grinnell College.

The Grinnell College National Poll was conducted by Des Moines-based Selzer & Co. from Aug. 29 through Sept. 2. It asked 1,002 adults questions about immigrants who are living in the country lawfully and about views of undocumented immigrants. The margin of error for the general population sample is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Legal immigrants

The Grinnell College Poll included three questions about immigrants living in the United States lawfully.  In all three, there is little variation by party affiliation.

Are there too many lawful immigrants in the U.S. now?

  • 54 percent say there are “not too many”
  • 22 percent say there are “a lot but not too many”
  • 16 percent say there are “too many”

Younger people and people with college degrees were most likely (66 percent each) to say there are “not too many,’’ while people who voted for Trump or approve of the job he is doing were most likely (24 percent each) to say there are “too many.”

Are lawful immigrants taking jobs away from Americans or doing jobs that might otherwise go unfilled?

  • 77 percent say these immigrants are doing jobs that need to be done
  • 13 percent say lawful migrants are taking jobs from Americans

Among Republicans, 18 percent say lawful immigrants take jobs from Americans, while 66 percent say they are doing jobs that might otherwise go unfilled.

Are lawful immigrants using government programs like health care and food stamps more, less, or about the same as native-born residents of the U.S.?

  • 51 percent say there is no difference between the two groups
  • 24 percent say lawful immigrants use such programs more than native-born residents
  • 18 percent say lawful immigrants use such programs less than native-born residents

Undocumented immigrants

The Grinnell College National Poll also asked:

Compared to the U.S. population overall, do you think the rate of violent crime among immigrants living in the U.S. without proper documentation is higher, lower, or about the same?

  • 44 percent believe there is no difference in the violent crime rate of undocumented immigrants
  • 28 percent say the violent crime rate of undocumented immigrants is higher
  • 22 percent say the violent crime rate of undocumented immigrants is lower

Political affiliation appears to be a factor. Among Republicans, 52 percent say violent crime rates are higher for undocumented immigrants, but only 11 percent of Democrats and 27 percent of independents agree. Meanwhile, 52 percent of Democrats say violent crime by undocumented immigrants is about the same, as it is for U.S. citizens; 43 percent of independents agree, as do 35 percent of Republicans.

“The Trump campaign used the issue of immigration in a very particular way. But, even among Republicans, there is not as much traction as one might expect, given how much air time there has been,” said Escandell.

For more information on the poll, please visit www.grinnell.edu/poll.

Interview with Xavier Escandell, Associate Professor of Anthropology

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