Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Oct/09

18

Attitudes toward immigration

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Below, Art says:

Of course the Republican and conservative segment of the population is strongly anti-immigration …

They are strongly anti-illegal immigration. Most conservatives favor legal immigration, particularly skilled immigrants.

This is not really true, depending on how you interpret what Art meant. In fact, Americans as a whole want lower levels of legal immigration. In 2006 the Center for Immigration Studies republished a Zogby Poll on American attitudes toward immigration. I reproduced some of the responses to two questions below in a table.

I highlighted a few rows.

1) American Jews are outliers on immigration (though even among them there is a tendency to toward immigration skeptic positions).

2) No surprise that the highest income Americans are those who most agree that one needs immigration to bolster the unskilled labor force.

3) There are some peculiar numbers for “very conservative” individuals. 21% are “not sure” if immigration is necessary to meet the needs of unskilled labor in this country. I have two hypotheses:

a) A significant proportion of “very conservative” individuals are strongly influenced by economic libertarian arguments about the utility of easy flows of capital and labor in a global economy. So this is an empirical question for them which they will not offer an opinion upon if they don’t have the information on hand.

b) A significant proportion of “very conservative” individuals don’t see immigration as an economic issue at all, but rather one of race, ethnicity and national character. So these sorts of considerations are moot for them.

There are currently 37 million legal and illegal immigrants in the United States and 1.5 million new legal and illegal immigrants settle in the country each year. Putting aside for a moment the question of legal status and considering only the numbes, do yo think the number entering the country is too high, too low, or just about right?
  Too High Too Low Just About Right Not Sure
All Americans 66 2 26 7
Women 72 1 20 7
Men 59 2 32 7
Republicans 70 0 24 6
Democrats 62 3 31 4
Independents 66 2 21 12
Whites 68 1 24 7
Blacks 73 3 19 5
Hispanics 43 1 43 14
Very Conservative 85 1 14 3
Conservative 70 1 20 8
Moderate 65 1 26 7
Liberal 58 1 32 9
Progressive 48 4 46 2
Protestant 73 1 22 5
Born-Again 78 1 18 3
Catholic 64 0 30 6
Jewish 49 14 30 7
House income < $25 K 70 0 21 8
$25 – $35 K 72 2 21 5
$35 – $50 K 62 3 29 6
$50 – $75 K 64 1 29 6
> $75 K 63 1 29 7
Which of the following statements best reflects your views with regard to low-wage jobs that require relatively little education?
There are plenty of Americans do to such jobs, employers just need to pay higher wages and treat workers better to attract Americans America needs large numbers of immigrants because there are not enough Americans to fill such jobs Not Sure
All Americans 74 15 10
Women 79 12 9
Men 69 19 12
Republicans 70 17 12
Democrats 78 15 7
Independents 75 12 13
Whites 74 16 10
Blacks 84 5 12
Hispanics 65 20 14
Very Conservative 71 9 21
Conservative 72 18 10
Moderate 80 13 7
Liberal 76 16 8
Progressive 70 18 14
Protestant 77 14 9
Born-Again 78 12 10
Catholic 75 14 12
Jewish 55 35 10
House income < $25 K 90 7 3
$25 – $35 K 80 11 9
$35 – $50 K 82 11 7
$50 – $75 K 76 13 11
> $75 K 61 25 14

· ·

4 comments

  • Michael · October 19, 2009 at 5:51 am

    For me, the most surprising result is the difference between women and men overall (72 v 59 overall; 79 v 69 on low-skilled immigration). Low-skilled immigration I would think threatens more jobs from men than women. Any thoughts?

  • Polichinello · October 19, 2009 at 6:50 am

    Art may have been wrong in absolute terms, but he’s right in a relative sense. Yes, conservatives are against current levels of immigration, but no less so than liberals, and when it come to nativism, nobody beats the blacks (which any experience discussing the issue with them will confirm).

    I’m also surprised by how large both the Jewish and the Hispanic minorities are in the above table. The Hispanic view becomes nativist in the second one. If this is true, it discredits the Bush/McCain Hispandering we’ve endured over the past decade.

  • Sully · October 19, 2009 at 7:45 am

    That’s an amazing poll. A majority or plurality of every single demographic thinks immigration numbers are too high. And there is not a single demographic that thinks more immigrants are needed. There’s been a lot of talk of polarization on this issue; but that poll certainly doesn’t support that meme.

    So why can’t even the simple things be accomplished to get at least some control on the rate of immigration? How can an Afghan student visa holder get lost in the country while not attending school 8 years after 9/11? How can a major stimulus bill be passed proclaiming eagerness to fund shovel ready projects and include no funds for border control?

  • sg · October 19, 2009 at 9:23 am

    This lack of enthusiasm for immigration despite scant media coverage of the incredible expense of low income immigrants. If more people knew the real cost to taxpayers, what little support there is would drop even lower.

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