The Bedrock of Ordinary Americans’ Immigration Views-Future Immigration Levels, Pt. 3

Trying to ascertain Americans’ preferences for future immigration levels when they were given information that might stimulate them to feel threatened or xenophobic, researchers asked three versions on the question future levels question (p.16):

Control: “Turning to some issues that have been in the news lately, one issue is immigration. Do you think the number of immigrants from foreign countries who are permitted to come to live in the United States should be increased a lot, increased a little, left the same as it is now, decreased a little, or decreased a lot?”

Numbers: “Recently, according to the U.S. Census and other estimates, about one million legal immigrants have been permitted to come to the United States each year and about another 300,000 illegal immigrants come each year. Do you think the number of immigrants from foreign countries who are permitted to come to live in the United States should be increased a lot, increased a little, left the same as it is now, decreased a little, or decreased a lot?”

Numbers + Origin: “Recently, according to the U.S. Census and other estimates, about one million legal immigrants have been permitted to come to the United States each year and about another 300,000 illegal immigrants come each year. About 40 percent of all the immigrants presently in the U.S. are from Mexico. Do you think the number of immigrants from foreign countries who are permitted to come to live in the United States should be increased a lot, increased a little, left the same as it is now, decreased a little, or decreased a lot?”

The question here, as in the previous parts of the study I described here and here, was whether specific, accurate immigration facts would change the views of Americans about future levels of immigration.

More specifically the authors wrote:

“First, we provided information about the estimated yearly influx of immigrants and illegal immigrants—hypothesizing that the size of this influx would strike respondents as large, thus producing more concern about immigration and illegal immigration, as well as a preference for more restrictive policies. Second, we provided information that went beyond the simple size of the immigrant population to describe its composition in terms of national origin. In particular, we provided an estimate of the Mexican proportion of the U.S. immigrant population. If attitudes towards immigration are in part based on “symbolic” concerns about national identity—and certainly such concerns are regularly expressed, with Spanish-speaking immigrants and in particular Mexicans a primary cause of concern (see Huntington 2004)—then this information may have an effect, above and beyond that of information about the number of immigrants.”

Would Americans who learned the “real” numbers of legal immigrants to the country be more/less likely to support more/less future immigration? Would Americans support more/less future immigration when they learned that Mexicans accounted for 40 percent of “all immigrants”?

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