Anti-immigrant sentiment is down in the United States — way down


A new poll shows an increasing number of Americans want to see less immigration to the United States, with the less-immigration crowd jumping from 35 percent of the population the last couple years to 41 percent today.

A big blow for immigration reform's prospects, right?

Well, not exactly. In fact, the momentary increase in anti-immigration sentiment looks more like a blip on the screen than a significant and lasting shift. And in fact, by a lot of measures (including Gallup's own pollin), Americans have become significantly more pro-immigration in recent years.

To wit:

1) A May poll from the New York Times showed 46 percent of Americans thought all immigrants should be welcomed to the United States. That's up from 33 percent in 2010, 24 percent in 2007 (the last time immigration reform failed) and around 20 percent in the mid-1990s.

The percentage who say there should be no immigration has also dropped to 19 percent.

 

NYTpoll

2) The same poll showed the percentage of Americans who say immigrants contribute to this country has risen significantly over the past three decades.

While Americans in the 1980s and 1990s said immigrants were more likely to cause problems than contribute, it's now 66-21 in favor of contributing. And the numbers continue to rise to this day.

NYT2

 

3) A CNN/Opinion Research poll from 2010 showed Americans favored halting immigration and deporting those here illegally over legalizing them, 60 percent to 38 percent.

Today, those numbers are reversed, with 54 percent emphasizing legalization and 41 percent emphasizing border security and deportation.

Legalization

4) An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from last year showed Americans increasingly thought immigrants made the United States a stronger country.

While Americans in 2006 said 48-41 that immigration weakened the United States, in 2013 they said 54-36 that it strengthens their country.

Strengthen

The shifts toward a more pro-immigrant attitude is pretty striking (and fast) in all four of these cases. We'll see whether that persists in the years ahead.

If it does, does that mean immigration reform has a better shot at passing? Probably, yes — at least marginally.

But as these data show, just because Americans like immigrants and immigration better than they did a decade ago doesn't mean passing some kind of comprehensive reform is a cinch. Just like last decade, Congress is failing miserably.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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