Pew Research Center

SEPTEMBER 28, 2015

Hispanic Trends

For the U.S. Public, Views of Immigrants and Their Impact on U.S. Society Are Mixed

For its part, the American public has mixed views on the impact immigrants have had on American society, according to a newly released Pew Research Center public opinion survey. Overall, 45% of Americans say immigrants in the U.S. are making American society better in the long run, while 37% say they are making it worse (16% say immigrants are not having much effect). The same survey finds that half of Americans want to see immigration to the U.S. reduced (49%), and eight-in-ten (82%) say the U.S. immigration system either needs major changes or it needs to be completely rebuilt.

Half Say Immigrants in the U.S. Are Making Crime, the Economy Worse, but Food, Music and the Arts Are BetterThe public’s views of immigrants’ impact on the U.S. vary across different aspects of American life. Views are most negative about the economy and crime: Half of U.S. adults say immigrants are making things worse in those areas. On the economy, 28% say immigrants are making things better, while 20% say they are not having much of an effect. On crime, by contrast, just 7% say immigrants are making things better, while 41% generally see no positive or negative impact of immigrants in the U.S. on crime.

On other aspects of U.S. life, Americans are more likely to hold neutral views of the impact of immigrants. Some 45% say immigrants are not having much effect on social and moral values, and 56% say they are not having much effect on science and technology. But when it comes to food, music and the arts, about half (49%) of adults say immigrants are making things better.

U.S. adults’ views on the impact of immigrants on American society also differ depending on where immigrants are from. Some 47% of U.S. adults say immigrants from Asia have had a mostly positive impact on American society, and 44% say the same about immigrants from Europe. Meanwhile, half of Americans say the impact of immigrants from Africa has been neither positive nor negative.

European and Asian Immigrants Viewed Most PositivelyHowever, Americans are more likely to hold negative views about the impact of immigrants from Latin America and the Middle East. In the case of Latin American immigrants, 37% of American adults say their impact on American society has been mostly negative, 35% say their impact is neither positive nor negative, and just 26% say their impact on American society has been positive. For immigrants from the Middle East, views are similar—39% of U.S. adults say their impact on American society has been mostly negative, 39% say their impact has been neither positive nor negative, and just 20% say their impact has been mostly positive on U.S. society.

Many Americans say that immigrants to the U.S. are not assimilating. Two-thirds of adults say immigrants in the U.S. today generally want to hold on to their home country customs and way of life, while only about a third (32%) say immigrants want to adopt Americans customs. The survey also finds that 59% of Americans say most recent immigrants do not learn English within a reasonable amount of time, while 39% say they do.

The nationally representative bilingual survey of 3,147 adults was conducted online using the Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel from March 10 to April 6, 2015, before the current national discussion began about national immigration policy, unauthorized immigration and birthright citizenship. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

For more information on immigration go to: http://www.pewhispanic.org

 

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