The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
UC-San Diego's Hal Pashler has an interesting paper entitled "U.S. Immigrants' Attitudes Toward Libertarian Values." Using data from the 2010 General Social Survey, Pashler examined differences between foreign-born residents and US-born residents in their views on free expression.
The General Social Survey contained 15 questions specifically on free expression values. Five hypothetical situations were covered—all of them concerning the expression of individuals whose views could be seen as distasteful to a significant number of Americans. Respondents were asked whether these individuals (an "atheist," a "communist," a "racist," a "homosexual," and an "anti-US Muslim cleric") should be allowed to speak on a college campus and whether should be able to teach there. They were also asked whether such a person's book should be allowed in the library.
Pashler combined the speak/teach/library questions and found that in all cases, the foreign-born residents were less likely to support free expression than US-born residents. In all cases except the "homosexual" scenario, the difference was statistically significant. For example, almost 80% of the US-born residents' responses supported the atheist's free expression, but only about 65% of the foreign-born residents' responses did. About 60% of the US-born residents' responses were favorable to free expression in the "racist" scenario, while about 42% of the foreign-born residents' responses were. For the "anti-US Muslim cleric," the figures were about 45% and about 27%.
Will the foreign-born population's views change as time goes by? Maybe. But as any poor sot who has ever been hired by one of the major political parties to woo an ethnic group that has traditionally voted for the other party will tell you, it's not as easy as it sounds to change people's political views. Most people, immigrant or not, vote the same way their grandparents voted. It is especially difficult to try to get foreign-born residents to "think like" US-born residents given the anti-assimilationist ideology that has been prevalent now for decades, particularly in our schools. The culture of "safe spaces," "trigger warnings," and "hate speech codes" makes it twice as difficult.
There is no good reason immigration policy should be driven solely by this angle of the issue. But there is no good reason policymakers should ignore it either.