Americans' Views on Immigration Policy

An Ipsos poll on behalf of NPR

The author(s)
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC – In a recent survey on Americans’ views toward immigrants and immigration policy, Ipsos, on behalf of NPR, found that many Americans tend to be unaware of how many of foreign-born people, including undocumented or illegal immigrants, currently live in the country. Additionally, views on immigration policy tend to be largely tied to partisanship.  

When asked how many foreign-born people live in the United States, half of the American public (49%) said they didn’t know, and just 16% correctly estimated 43 million. Just 1 in 4 (26%) are also correctly able to identify that undocumented or illegal immigrants currently make up less than 10% of the U.S. population. When asked whether they believe the Latino population is the fastest growing demographic group in America, three-quarters of Americans (74%), including equal numbers of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents incorrectly responded that this was their belief (the Asian American and Pacific Islander community grew by a larger share from 2010 to 2015). 

Despite showing similar familiarity with immigrants (39% of Republicans, 38% of Democrats, and 38% of Independents have at least one casual acquaintance who was born outside of the U.S.), Americans continue to be divided by partisanship over their support of immigration-related policies. Nearly one-third of Republicans (31%) believe that immigrants are more likely to commit crimes or be incarcerated compared to U.S.-born citizens, compared to just 12% of Democrats and 13% of Independents. Nearly three-quarters of Democrats (71%) believe that America depends on immigrants to sustain our economy; more than half of Independents (55%) and 45% of Republicans agree. When it comes to immigration quotas, a plurality of Democrats (44%) believe that the number of immigrants to the U.S. should be kept the same as it is now, compared to 18% of Republicans. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans (62%) believe the number of immigrants allowed should be decreased; one-third of Independents (35%) and just a quarter of Democrats agree. 

On specific policies, partisan contrasts become starker. Less than one in five Democrats (18%) support building a wall or fence along the entire U.S., Mexico border, while two-thirds of Republicans (68%) support the measure. A majority of Republicans (63%) also support a movement to end the ability of legal immigrants to bring extended family members to the U.S., compared to 30% of Democrats and 49% of Independents. Notably, two-thirds of all Americans (65%) support giving legal status to undocumented or illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, though partisan differences are still evident. Half of Republicans (51%) support this plan, along with two-thirds of Independents, and 81% of Democrats. 

About the Study

These are findings from an Ipsos poll conducted January 31-February 1, 2018. For the survey, a sample of roughly 1,004 adults age 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii was interviewed online in English. The sample includes 370 Democrats, 309 Republicans, and 216 Independents. 

The sample for this study was randomly drawn from Ipsos’s online panel (see link below for more info on “Access Panels and Recruitment”), partner online panel sources, and “river” sampling (see link below for more info on the Ipsos “Ampario Overview” sample method) and does not rely on a population frame in the traditional sense. Ipsos uses fixed sample targets, unique to each study, in drawing sample. After a sample has been obtained from the Ipsos panel, Ipsos calibrates respondent characteristics to be representative of the U.S. Population using standard procedures such as raking-ratio adjustments. The source of these population targets is U.S. Census 2016 American Community Survey data. The sample drawn for this study reflects fixed sample targets on demographics. Post-hoc weights were made to the population characteristics on gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, and education. 

Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error. Where figures do not sum to 100, this is due to the effects of rounding. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for all respondents. The credibility interval is 5.8% for Democrats, 6.4% for Republicans, and 7.6% for Independents. Ipsos calculates a design effect (DEFF) for each study based on the variation of the weights, following the formula of Kish (1965). This study had a credibility interval adjusted for design effect of the following (n=1,004, DEFF=1.5, adjusted Confidence Interval=5.0). For more information about conducting research intended for public release or Ipsos’ online polling methodology, please visit our Public Opinion Polling and Communication page where you can  download our brochure, see our public release protocol, or contact us.

For more information on this news release, please contact:
Chris Jackson
Vice President, U.S.
Ipsos Public Affairs
+1 202 420-2025
[email protected] 

About Ipsos Public Affairs

Ipsos Public Affairs is a non-partisan, objective, survey-based research practice made up of seasoned professionals. We conduct strategic research initiatives for a diverse number of American and international organizations, based not only on public opinion research, but elite stakeholder, corporate, and media opinion research.

Ipsos has media partnerships with the most prestigious news organizations around the world. In Canada, the U.S., UK, and internationally, Ipsos Public Affairs is the media polling supplier to Reuters News, the world's leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals. Ipsos Public Affairs is a member of the Ipsos Group, a leading global survey-based market research company. We provide boutique-style customer service and work closely with our clients, while also undertaking global research.

About Ipsos

Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. Ipsos ranks fourth in the global research industry.

With offices in 88 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across five research specializations: brand, advertising and media; customer loyalty; marketing; public affairs research; and survey management.

Ipsos researchers assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media and they measure public opinion around the globe.

Ipsos has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1999 and generated global revenues of €1,782.7 million in 2016.

The author(s)
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs

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