Pew Measures Shifting Attitudes on Immigration

Pew Research Center measures an upward shift in the long-term favorability opinions around immigrants and immigration levels, a change mostly driven by Democrats. Based on a survey conducted between June 5-12 among 2,002 adults, Pew reports a rise in the share of respondents who support increasing documented immigration and a decline among the share of respondents who support a decline in documented immigration.

“The share of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who say legal immigration into the U.S. should be increased has doubled since 2006, from 20% to 40%,” according to the report.

At the same time, Republicans’ views around immigration also changed in the last 12 years, though at a much more modest clip. While 43 percent of the group respondents supported cutting documented immigration rates in 2006, the rate fell to 33 percent at the time of the 2018 survey.

The difference in amounts means there’s around twice as many Republicans in support of cutting documented immigration as compared to Democrats. Approximately 33 percent of Republicans support cutting documented immigration rates while only around 16 percent of Democrats report the same outlook. On the whole, the numbers shake out to a rise of 22 percentage points — 10 percent to 32 percent — of those supporting increased levels of documented immigration. The overall share supporting a decrease in documented immigration levels dropped by 29 percentage points — from 53 percent to 24 percent.

In terms of immigrants in the United States without documentation, Pew reports most respondents as holding sympathetic attitudes as nearly 7 out of 10 — 69 percent — characterize feeling “very or somewhat sympathetic” toward undocumented immigrants. The number essentially mirrors attitudes held since 2014, according to the Pew report, when a surge of Central American minors attempted to cross the U.S. southern border. With this, the numbers again break down across partisan lines as 86 percent of Democrats reported feeling sympathetic toward undocumented immigrants while only 48 percent of Republicans reported feeling the same way.

Pew researchers point out that the survey took place largely before the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border involving the separation of children from their parents. Pew characterizes the differences in Democrat and Republican views as “deep and persistent partisan divisions.”