A substantial majority of the country views immigration as a threat, according to a new survey. Bloomberg reports:
Sixty-one percent of Americans agree that “continued immigration into the country jeopardizes the United States,” according to a new poll commissioned by management consulting firm A.T. Kearney that revealed pessimism across a wide range of issues.
The degree of concern is remarkable considering that the question was about all immigration, including the legal kind. Even Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has said he supports legal immigration into the U.S.
A.T. Kearney gave Bloomberg Businessweek an exclusive first look at the results of the survey, which covers 2,590 respondents and is part of an America@250 study that’s intended to gauge the nation’s direction with 10 years to go before its 250th birthday. The study, which will be posted online later this month, was conducted last October and November by NPD Group.
If true (or even anywhere close to accurate) this poll would suggest that immigration skepticism is significantly more popular than Donald Trump. It should give those who think that this problem is going away when the Donald does, or that it’s a pet issue for a rump of one party, pause.
While the poll unsurprisingly showed that Boomers and Jacksonians were more anti-immigration than most, such an attitude was held widely across generations:
A belief that immigration jeopardizes the U.S. was common across age groups, although highest among baby boomers (65 percent) and lowest among millennials (55 percent). By education, it was highest among those with just a high school education or some college (65 percent), and by region it was highest in the South, including Texas (66 percent).
Admittedly, there are good reasons to be skeptical of the precise level of immigration skepticism—and even more reason to be suspicious of how such feeling, however quantified, would map precisely onto policy preferences. Even more than most issues, this one comes down to how you ask:
The A.T. Kearney survey seems to show more negativity toward immigration than other recent surveys, although it’s hard to tell because each one uses its own question wording. A Pew Research Center study conducted in August through October found that 53 percent of respondents thought immigration strengthened the U.S. vs. 38 percent who thought it burdened the U.S. In a Gallup Poll in June, 34 percent of respondents favored a decrease in immigration, 25 percent favored an increase, and 40 percent favored keeping it at current levels.
What is clear is that Americans are more down on immigration than in past eras. As recently as 2002, the Harris Poll found that only 1 percent of Americans mentioned immigration, including refugees, when asked to name the two most important issues for the government to address. That rose to 19 percent last year.
But even with caveats, it’s clear immigration skepticism is on the rise. And (to confirm other things that are hard to miss these days), respondents were also worried about the nation’s economic future:
Fifty-eight percent of respondents agreed with the statement “I’m not confident in the U.S. economy’s ability to return to stronger growth.” Fifty-two percent agreed, “U.S. businesses will be increasingly uncompetitive.” And 51 percent agreed, “My vote doesn’t matter because politics in Washington will never change.”
Interestingly, the group did have high confidence (85%) in the ability of technology to change the country for the better. But not so much for our business or political leaders, or immigrants, it would seem.
There aren’t specific policy programs that flow out of such numbers, and answers that can gain consensus will likely be difficult to find. But anybody who thinks that when(ever) the Trump phenomenon is over, the issue of immigration will go away, is likely sorely mistaken.