A shift has been occurring in U.S. attitudes toward immigration. And it may be a surprise, given that Donald Trump won both the Republican nomination and the White House in 2016 as an immigration hawk.
He tapped into long-standing concerns among many Americans about loose borders and rapid demographic change. But a poll released this month by Gallup found that, for the first time in its surveys, Americans lean generally toward more rather than less immigration.
The late-spring poll found that 34% of U.S. adults would like to see immigration increase, while 28% would prefer a decrease (and 36% support the current volume). From the 1960s through the 1990s, by contrast, support for more immigration never exceeded 10% in Gallup surveys. The gradual rise in support since then is strongest among Democrats and political independents, but is also visible among Republicans.
The reasons may be many, but some of the backdrop is economic. The foreign-born share of the workforce has been rising in recent decades, and many people recognize the contributions of immigrants as innovators and entrepreneurs.
The presence of those students creates jobs, fuels research, and supports educational programs for native-born students as well, say researchers at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “Welcoming foreign students has also increased the United States’ soft power,” the researchers say, as “millions of foreign students ... have returned to their home countries, largely with warm feelings about their education and the country that provided it.”