If the rhetoric and policy broadcast from the country’s highest office were any indication, you’d think public opinion concerning immigration would be distinctly unfavorable. After all, the current administration continues to vilify those seeking refugee status on the southern border at the same time as it has issued an executive order calling for a review of the H1-B visa process, limiting the ability of U.S. companies to hire specialized labor from abroad. Nonetheless, the public is overwhelmingly—and, perhaps, surprisingly—supportive of immigration. New data from the Pew Research Centre suggest majorities in the U.S. and other “destination countries” see immigrants as more of a strength than a burden.
Six-in-ten (59%) adults in the U.S. are reported as asserting that immigrants make the country stronger because of their work and talents, while one-third (34%) say immigrants are a burden because they take jobs and social benefits. In Canada, Australia, the UK, Sweden, Germany, and Japan, numbers are similar, where between 59% and 68% of adults view immigration as making a positive social contribution. Each of these countries is home to more than 7 million immigrants, with the U.S. hosting the greatest number at an estimated 47 million.
Surprisingly, this trend is decades old; U.S. public opinion has been shifting toward embracing immigration since the 1990s. In 1994, 64% of adults reported viewing immigration as a social burden with only 34% asserting it as beneficial; the most recent numbers display a complete inversion of this outlook. In contrast, the evolution of European public opinion is split, with adults in Greece, Germany and Italy seeing immigration less favorably since the refugee crisis of 2015 and adults in Spain, the UK, and France announcing a marked increase in support of immigration during this same period.
Another outcome standing in stark contrast to federal political rhetoric in the U.S. is the fact that a majority of adults (54%) believe immigrants want to adopt U.S. customs and ways of life. Only 37% state otherwise, believing that immigrant communities want to remain distinct. This outlook lines up with similar opinions in other “destination countries” such as Sweden, France, and South Africa. Japan is a noteworthy outlier, where an overwhelming 75% of adults believe immigrants seek to assimilate culturally.
A final outcome those attuned to the U.S. media landscape might find startling is the fact that large majorities in “destination countries” believe immigrants are not any more to blame for crime than other groups. This is true of Canada, where 80% of adults make this claim, the U.S. (77%), France (76%) and the UK (74%).
A robust look at data coming out of the Pew Research Center demonstrates that while not all opinion concerning immigration is favorable, a surprisingly large number of metrics contrast with the message peddled by many elected U.S. officials. Where we are presented too often with an unfavorable media spin on immigration, staying abreast of the positive trends is more important than ever. Especially for immigrants, knowing that the majority of Americans support their stay in the U.S. is a huge relief—especially amidst such an emotionally destructive political climate.
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