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Americans Who Say Immigrants Benefit the Economy Are More Likely To Support Reform

According to the latest Reason-Rupe poll, a majority of Americans (55 percent) support offering legal residency and an eventual path to citizenship to unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States if they meet certain requirements. This number is far higher if one says immigrants help the economy: 73 percent favor residency and path to citizenship. Americans who perceive immigration’s economic benefits also support raising visa caps for high skilled and low skilled future immigrants (52 percent). Overall, 40 percent of Americans support raising visa caps for high skilled and low skilled future immigrants.

In contrast 27 percent of Americans support deportation of unauthorized immigrants. Among those who say immigrants hurt the economy, a plurality (45 percent) support deportation, while 34 percent favor residency and a citizenship pathway. Americans skeptical of immigration’s benefits are also 20 points less likely to favor raising the visa cap for high-skilled and low-skilled workers with only about 30 percent in support.

Overall, Americans are evenly divided over whether immigrants grow (40 percent) or hurt (40 percent) the US economy; few (15 percent) believe it has no impact. A majority (52 percent) worries immigrant take jobs away from native-born Americans, 42 percent do not share this concern. These economic worries are highly predictive of support for reform but may also be indicative of individuals’ underlying feelings toward newcomers.

The Young and More Educated Perceive Immigration Benefits

Younger Americans and those with more education are more likely to perceive benefits from immigration.

A majority of college graduates (53 percent) and those with post graduate degrees (68 percent) share optimism of immigration’s economic benefits, but a little more than a quarter of those with high school diplomas share this view. Those with postgraduate degrees are 17 points more likely to favor a path to citizenship than high school graduates.

Majorities of millennials believe immigrants grow the economy, but only about 35 percent of those aged 35 and older agree. Less surprisingly, millennials are more likely to favor residency and path to citizenship than those over thirty (60 percent to 53 percent).

White Americans are more skeptical of the economic benefits of immigration. Forty-six percent of Caucasians think immigrants hurt the economy and 60 percent say immigration takes jobs away from native-born Americans. Latinos disagree: 56 percent say immigration helps the economy and 59 percent say immigrants do not take away jobs. African-Americans are in the middle: a plurality (47 percent) say immigrants bolster the economy but 52 percent say they also take jobs away from native-born Americans.

There are also regional disparities over whether immigrants strengthen the economy. Americans in the Northeast and West are far less concerned about the effects of immigration than are Midwesterners and Southerners. Pluralities in the Northeast (48 percent) and West (43 percent) say immigrants bolster the economy and are evenly divided over whether immigrants take away jobs. However 57 percent of Midwesterners and 60 percent of Southerners say immigrants take away jobs. A plurality of those in the Midwest (45 percent) worry immigrants harm the economy, while the South is evenly divided. 

Read the full report here: Reason-Rupe Feb 2013 Full Immigration Findings

Nationwide telephone poll conducted February 21-25 2013 interviewed 1002 adults on both mobile (502) and landline (500) phones, with a margin of error +/- 3.8%. Columns may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Full poll results found here. Full methodology can be found hereA full analysis of the poll’s immigration results can be found here. 

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