Among all respondents, responses were split about evenly, with 49 percent saying immigrants threaten U.S. society, and 47 percent saying immigrants strengthen it.
Among (non-Hispanic) whites only, a higher share — 57 percent — chose “threaten,” while 41 percent chose “strengthen.” Jocelyn Kiley, associate director of research at Pew Research Center, sent me a further breakdown of whites’ responses, according to immigrant generation.
As you can see, there’s no real difference between first-, second- or third-generation whites on this question. (First generation = foreign-born; second generation = child of at least one immigrant; etc.) However, whites who say they, their parents and their grandparents were all born in the United States are slightly more likely than those who have at least one non-native-born grandparent to believe newer immigrants are a threat.
The second survey I mentioned is from PRRI’s 2015 American Values Atlas.
This survey asked a version of the same question. Respondents who were Hispanic were also asked about place of birth, and length of time in the United States. if they indicated they’d been born abroad.
Here are the results, courtesy of PRRI research director Dan Cox:
As you can see, compared with the more recent Pew Research Center poll, overall responses were somewhat less negative toward immigrants. Half of all respondents said immigrants strengthen society, and a third said immigrants threaten society.
Hispanics were much more pro-immigrant than the public at large, and foreign-born Hispanics were more pro-immigrant than native-born Hispanics. But within just the subset of foreign-born Hispanics, there are pretty big differences in attitude. In chart form, to more clearly illustrate the gradient:
Hispanic immigrants who have been in the United States longer are much less likely to see newcomers as strengthening society than are those who have been here for shorter periods.
These attitudes don’t exactly map onto policy preferences as you might expect, though.
Another PRRI question asked respondents about whether immigrants who were in the United States. illegally should be given a path to citizenship. Among all Americans, 62 percent said they should be given a path to citizenship; among Hispanics only, the share was not much higher, at 67 percent.
Interestingly, recently arrived Hispanic immigrants express less support for a path to citizenship than do Hispanic immigrants who have been in the United States for longer periods. These newer immigrants don’t favor deportation, but they do show a higher preference for granting a path to legal permanent residence rather than citizenship (at least relative to longer-dwelling immigrant peers).
Again, here are the findings for just foreign-born respondents, in graph form:
In an email, Cox offers one possible explanation for this finding:
This is most likely due to the fact that Hispanic immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for 10 and 20 years have put down roots, started families and are more invested in their communities. Immigrants who have only lived here a couple years are more likely to be in the U.S. for work, in which case their more immediate concern, if they are not here legally, is to gain permanent residency status.