Public Support for Immigration Increasing

John Hinderaker at the powerlineblog posted immigration polling data from the Republican Senate staff.  You can read the poll results here.  According to the top Gallup poll reported by the staff, 60 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the current immigration system while 33 percent are satisfied.  Of those dissatisfied, 39 percent wanted less immigration and 7 percent wanted more, a subgroup wants less immigration is hardly a ringing endorsement of more restrictions.

However, here is another poll question that Gallup has asked periodically since 1965 that shows public opinion becoming more supportive of increasing immigration as the annual number of green cards climbs.  The question is: “In your view, should immigration be kept at its present level, increased, or decreased?”  Surprisingly, Americans have become more supportive of liberalizing immigration over time.  In 1965, only 7 percent of respondents wanted to increase immigration while 24.5 percent did in 2014 (average of two polls in that year).

Respondents Who Say “Increase Immigration”

Sources: Gallup Survey and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Those who say that immigration should be decreased were at a low point of 33 percent in 1965, peaked at 65 percent in 1993, and have since decreased to 38.5 percent in 2015.  Populist demand to limit legal immigration is decreasing.

Respondents Who Say “Decrease Immigration”

Sources: Gallup Survey and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Support for the same level of immigration has been more constant over time.

Respondents Who Say “Same Level of Immigration”

Sources: Gallup Survey and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Combining the respondents who wanted more immigration with those who support the same level shows a near-constant improvement in opinion since the early 1990s. 

Respondents Who Say “Increase Immigration” and “Same Level”

Sources: Gallup Survey and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

The last time Congress seriously tried to restrict legal immigration was in 1996 - and that effort failed despite the then popularity of such a measure. Such a bill in today’s political environment with substantially less support for restricting legal immigration will be dead upon arrival.  Immigration-restrictionists may like to pretend that they are fighting on the side of public opinion against an “elite consensus” that supports further liberalizing immigration.  They are really fighting against public opinion that is less hostile to immigration than it used to be.