Washington, DC, August 18, 2022 – Over half of American adults believe it is either completely or somewhat true that the U.S. is experiencing an invasion at the southern border, according to a new NPR/Ipsos poll. Moreover, half believe there is at least some truth to the view that migrants bringing fentanyl and other illegal drugs over the southern border are responsible for the increases of overdoses in the U.S. These statements, and others like them that were tested in this survey, shed light on how misleading information or politically charged rhetoric about immigration has taken root among a significant portion of the American public. Overall, perceptions about immigrants and immigration policy depend heavily not only on one’s party affiliation, but also their media consumption habits.
1. Across a series of true or false statements, Americans demonstrate uncertainty about immigrants and immigration policy. At the same time, this polling shows that immigration is not a top a concern, though it is more important among Republicans.
- Fewer than half of Americans correctly answered a range of true or false statements regarding immigrants or immigration policy, with a substantial share indicating they do not know.
- Roughly one in 10 (13%) Americans list immigration among their top concerns. This jumps to 26% among Republicans, but as a distant second to inflation (58%).
- While Republicans place greater emphasis on the issue of immigration as a whole, they are more likely than Democrats and independents to incorrectly believe that immigrants commit more crimes and use public assistance compared to the U.S.-born population, and that migrants are illegally smuggling in most of the fentanyl entering the U.S.
- Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Americans believe the large number of migrants apprehended at the southern border is a problem, consistent with perceptions in September 2021 (72%).
2. Many Americans report hearing misleading or politically charged information regarding immigrants and immigration policy. While one’s party affiliation is a broad indicator for believing truth in these statements, media consumption plays a significant role.
- Roughly half (52%) of Americans report hearing about an “invasion at the border” and about migrants bringing fentanyl over the southern border (49%) often or sometimes.
- More than two in five (44%) report hearing about “an open border policy” often or sometimes.
- Republicans report hearing about each of these misleading frames more often than Democrats and independents, particularly those that primarily consume their news from conservative outlets.
- More than half (54%) of Americans think it’s at least somewhat true that we’re experiencing an invasion at the southern border. Republicans (76%) believe this more so than Democrats (40%) and independents (46%). However, Republicans who cite Fox News or other conservative news sources as their main news source are even more likely to believe this than Republicans who get their news elsewhere (91% vs. 71% of those who have a different primary news source).
- Much of these differences exist within whether someone believes the statement is completely true. For example, Republicans who cite Fox News or other conservative news sources as their main news are more likely to believe it is completely true the U.S. is experiencing an invasion at the southern border (78%) than Republicans who get their news elsewhere (41%).
- Half also believe it is at least somewhat true that migrants bringing fentanyl and other illegal drugs over the southern border are responsible for the increase in drug overdoses and deaths in the U.S. Here too, we see a partisan divide, with 70% of Republicans saying this is true, compared to 35% of Democrats and 45% of independents. Conservative news watching-Republicans are most likely to believe this (89%), compared to 64% of Republicans whose primary news source is something else.
- More than one in three Americans (35%) agree that there is a deep state working to open our borders to more immigrants, including 58% of Republicans, 30% of independents, and 19% of Democrats.
3. Support for ‘dreamers’ has eroded over the past four years, while support for a wall along the southern border has increased. Fewer Americans today believe that immigrants are an important part of our American identity than in January 2018.
- Though a bare majority of Americans support giving legal status to undocumented or illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, this marks a steady decline in support since January 2018 from 65% to 51% today.
- Support for building a wall or fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border has risen since January 2018. Now, 46% support (and 42% oppose). Pre-pandemic, a majority opposed this.
- Fewer Americans today (56%) believe that immigrants are an important part of our American identity than in January 2018 (75%).
About the Study
This NPR/Ipsos poll was conducted July 28-29, 2022. For this survey, a sample of 1,116 adults age 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii was interviewed online in English. The sample includes 516 Democrats, 317 Republicans, and 141 independents.
The sample for this study was randomly drawn from Ipsos’ online panel, partner online panel sources, and “river” sampling and does not rely on a population frame in the traditional sense. Ipsos uses fixed sample targets, unique to each study, in drawing a 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 2019 American Community Survey data. The sample drawn for this study reflects fixed sample targets on demographics. Posthoc weights were made to the population characteristics on gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, and education.
Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online non-probability 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 3.6 percentage points for all respondents. 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=1,116, DEFF=1.5, adjusted Confidence Interval=+/-5.1 percentage points).
The poll also has a credibility interval of plus or minus 5.3 percentage points for Democrats, plus or minus 6.7 percentage points for Republicans, and plus or minus 10.1 percentage points for independents
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