Washington, DC, September 8, 2021 – Roughly three in four Americans believe the situation with the evacuation of Afghan civilians who worked with the U.S. in Afghanistan is a problem, with a majority saying it is a major problem, according to a new NPR/Ipsos poll. The survey, conducted in the days immediately following the final U.S. flights out of Afghanistan, shows widespread support for admitting certain Afghan refugees, including those who either worked with the U.S. government or served in the U.S. allied special forces, into the United States. There is also strong support for providing a legal way for Afghan refugees, who meet specific qualifications, to become U.S. citizens, putting them at the top of the list of certain groups of immigrants that the American public favors for a pathway to citizenship. Aside from the focus on Afghanistan, views on immigration overall have not changed significantly since earlier this year.
1. Most Americans are in favor of admitting certain groups of Afghans into the United States. For those that agree with doing so, the primary reason is feeling "we owe them."
- Overall, roughly two-thirds – or more – support admitting certain groups of Afghans into the U.S., including those who worked with the U.S. government (74%), served in the U.S. allied Afghan special forces (73%), or who fear repression or persecution from the Taliban (65%).
- In comparison, a smaller majority favor admitting people fleeing violence in other areas of the world into the U.S., specifically those from the African continent (59%), Syria and Libya (56%), or Central America (56%).
- One of the primary groups accounting for this difference is those that identify as Republicans. Strong majorities of Republicans favor admitting certain groups of Afghans, but fewer than half feel the same about people fleeing from other areas of the world. Support for the resettlement of Afghans is also higher than for people of other countries among white, rural, and older (over age 55) Americans.
- The primary reason for those who support Afghan refugees resettling here is that "they helped us in Afghanistan, so we owe them" (59%). Secondary reasons revolve around how refugees play into American culture/identity, including, "Sheltering refugees is part of America's heritage and principles" (42%), and "The U.S. has a moral responsibility to help others" (38%).
2. Though Afghanistan, and the plight of Afghan refugees, is now top of mind for Americans, attitudes on immigration remain relatively consistent compared to earlier this year.
- Overall, 74% of Americans consider the evacuation of Afghan civilians to be a problem at the moment, with 56% saying it is a major problem.
- When it comes to favoring resettlement or a legal pathway to citizenship, Afghan refugees are currently the top priority for Americans. Beyond that, public opinion has not shifted much since May.
- For example, most favor creating a legal way for the following groups, who meet specific qualifications, to become U.S. citizens: farmworkers and other essential workers (72% now, 71% in May), immigrants with temporary legal status who fled war or natural disasters (67% now, 70% in May), and undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children (62% now, 66% in May).
- Views on the topic also remain heavily influenced by partisan affiliation. Democrats are much more likely to agree that immigrants are part of our identity and that the U.S. has a moral obligation to accept refugees. At the same time, Republicans are more likely to favor a further pause (except in the case of Afghan refugees) and prioritize hiring people of this country over immigrants when jobs are scarce. Neither group has shifted their opinion significantly since May.
3. The issue landscape has changed over the past few months, with COVID-19 returning to the forefront among the American public.
COVID-19 is top of mind for Americans, as a plurality (42%) cite it as the most worrying topic. This is up from 28% in May.
- Many Americans continue to favor some specific ways of restricting immigration to the U.S. during the pandemic, such as temporarily banning flights or stopping travel from countries with severe coronavirus outbreaks (74% now, 77% in May) and temporarily closing the U.S. border, except for essential travel (61% now, 59% in May).
- Amid the ongoing tension in Afghanistan, slightly more Americans now cite terrorism as the most worrying (23%, up from 18%), putting it in a crowded second tier of issues with political extremism (22%), climate change (21%), healthcare (20%), and crime or gun violence (20%).
- At the same time, fewer cite racial injustice as a top worry compared to late May (16% now vs. 23%).
About the Study
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between September 1-2, 2021, on behalf of NPR. For this survey, a sample of 1,299 adults age 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii was interviewed online in English. This poll is trended against NPR/Ipsos polls conducted between May 13-14, 2021, August 20-21, 2020, July 30-31, 2020, and June 19-20, 2018, with a sample of 1,176, 1,186, 1,115 and 1,071 U.S. adults, respectively.
The sample for this study was randomly drawn from Ipsos’ 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 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 2018 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 3.1 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=1,299, DEFF=1.5, adjusted Confidence Interval=+/-4.6 percentage points).
The poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 5.5 percentage points for Republicans, plus or minus 4.5 percentage points for Democrats, and plus or minus 8.8 percentage points for Independents.
The poll fielded from May 13-14, 2021, has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points, the poll fielded from August 20-21, 2020, has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points, the poll fielded from July 30-31, 2020, has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points, and the poll fielded from June 19-20, 2018, has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
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