Democrats' Attitudes Toward Refugees Have Shifted A Lot In 4 Years

In 2015, Democrats were about evenly split on whether the U.S. had a responsibility to take in refugees. That's no longer the case.

Democratic attitudes toward refugees have grown substantially more welcoming in the past four years, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey finds.

In a 2015 poll taken after President Barack Obama proposed admitting more Syrian refugees, Democrats were split on what the U.S. owed refugees fleeing from other countries. Forty percent said the U.S. had a responsibility to take them in, and 43% said it didn’t.

Today, following several years of the Trump administration slashing refugee admission levels, a 62% majority of Democrats say the U.S. has a responsibility to help refugees, with just 18% saying otherwise. Independents’ and Republicans’ views have remained relatively stable over that period of time. 

Overall, Americans now say by a 7-point margin that the country does not have a responsibility toward refugees. That’s down from a 27-point margin in 2015.

The results echo other data on reactions to specific situations. When Gallup asked last December about letting Central American refugees into the U.S., about half of Americans approved ― a higher-than-usual level of support from a country that often balks at the idea of taking in those seeking refuge. Most of the public, by contrast, disapproved of taking in Syrians in 2015, Vietnamese so-called “boat people” in 1979, or refugee children fleeing Germany in 1939. Their polling found majority support only for admitting a relatively small number of Kosovo refugees in 1999.

Gallup’s polling also charts a growing partisan divide on the issue. Democrats and Republicans held nearly identical views about refugees from Vietnam and Kosovo. But in 2015, Democrats were 42 points more likely than Republicans to support taking in refugees from Syria, and in 2018, the partisan gap on Central American refugees was 68 points.

In other cases, however, recent polling has often suggested a broader shift on a related topic. Views on immigration have grown increasingly positive, a change coinciding with ― and perhaps spurred in part by a backlash against ― the Trump administration’s anti-immigration policies and rhetoric. Between 2016 and 2018, HuffPost/YouGov surveys found, Americans of all political stripes grew less likely to say that newcomers from other countries threatened traditional American customs and values. 

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 July 9-10 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.