Most Americans Think Legal Immigrants Are Good For The Country

Just 35% want the level of legal immigration to decrease.
White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller discusses the Trump administration's immigration policy at a news briefing Aug. 2.
White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller discusses the Trump administration's immigration policy at a news briefing Aug. 2.
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Americans overwhelmingly believe legal immigration into the U.S. is a boon for the country, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov survey, with just over a third supporting a decrease in the level of immigration permitted into the U.S.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump lent his support to a bill that would dramatically curtail the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country, potentially cutting the number in half.

By a 40-point margin, 58 percent to 18 percent, Americans say that legal immigration is largely a good thing for the country. The remaining 24 percent aren’t sure.

Thirty-five percent of the public wants to see the level of legal immigration decrease, while 46 percent say it should increase or remain at its present level.

There’s a closer divide on Trump’s overall attitude toward immigration. Forty percent say his approach is too harsh, while 37 percent call it about right, with 5 percent calling the president too soft on the issue.

Both a 58 percent majority of voters who supported Trump in last year’s election and an even broader 81 percent majority of those who backed his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, believe legal immigration is largely a good thing for the U.S. But there’s a significant political divide on the preferred level of immigration, with 62 percent of Trump voters and just 14 percent of Clinton voters supporting a decrease.

Views also vary to some extent by age: Americans older than 65 are twice as likely as those younger than 30 to support a decrease in legal immigration levels, even though they’re slightly more likely than the younger group to embrace legal immigration as a benefit to the nation.

In a press briefing last Wednesday, White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller dismissed the relevance to the immigration debate of the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.

“The New Colossus,” written by Emma Lazarus, reads in part: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

“I don’t want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty and lighting in the world; it’s a symbol of American liberty lighting the world,” Miller said in response to a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta. “The poem that you’re referring to was added later. It’s not actually part of the Statue of Liberty.”

Fifty-six percent of Americans say that Lazarus’ quote still should apply to immigration policy, with just 22 percent saying it should not apply. (A live-caller 2011 Vanity Fair/60 Minutes poll that asked the same question also found that the public agreed, 62 percent to 30 percent.)

Use the widget below to further explore the results of the HuffPost/YouGov survey, using the menu at the top to select survey questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroups:

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Aug. 2-3 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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