Friday, March 3, 2017

More about immigration

In November, I had a post about change in opinions on whether immigration should be reduced, stay the same, or increased.  A few weeks ago, I had another post observing that views about the right level of legal immigration could be distinguished from views about what should be done with immigrants who are here in violation of the law.  This post will look at whether opinions on the second point have changed.  Unfortunately, there is no question that has been asked regularly over a long period of time, but there are three relevant ones that have been asked a number of times in this century.  One is "Which comes closest to your view about illegal immigrants who are currently working in the U.S.? 1. They should be allowed to stay in their jobs and to eventually apply for U.S. citizenship, or 2. They should be allowed to stay in their jobs only as guest workers, but not to apply for U.S. citizenship, or 3. They should be required to leave their jobs and leave the U.S."  Here is the average counting the first option as +1, the second as zero, and the third as -1.

That looks like a positive trend--the correlation between the average and time is .57, with a p-value of .03.  

A second question was asked twice in 2006, once in November 2015, and once in June 2016:  "do you favor or oppose...deporting all illegal immigrants back to their home countries?"  The percent in favor was 50, 47, 52, and 32.  It's hard to interpret that, since the figures for the last two surveys are so different, even though they are just six months apart.  Still, it suggests a move away from support for deportation.

Finally, one asked if you "favor deporting as many as possible or do you favor setting up a system for them to become legal residents?"  That was asked in 2007, 2009, 2010, and several times since 2015.  

That looks like a definite decline in support for deportation.  However, in 2007-2010 the question started with "If it were possible to locate most illegal immigrants currently in the United States, would you"; in 2015-6 it started with "What do you think should happen to the illegal immigrants who are currently working in the United States."  That change might account for some or all of the difference between the early and later years--people may be more favorable about immigrants who are "currently working" than immigrants in general.  But there does seem to be a sharp drop in support for deportation between 2015 and 2016, as with the second question.  

None of these questions gives definitive evidence, but taken together they suggest that opinions on policy towards illegal immigrants have moved in a liberal direction in recent years, which raises an obvious question:  how do you square that with the success of Donald Trump?  I will take up that question in a later post.

[Data from the Rope Center for Public Opinion Research]

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