Surveys Find Americans Want Reduced Levels of Immigration

Polling in 10 states suggests overhaul of migrant admissions system is a winning political issue

by Brendan Kirby | Updated 30 Aug 2017 at 12:19 PM

A proposal to sharply curtail legal immigration has run into bipartisan opposition on Capitol Hill, but polling suggests widespread support among regular Americans.

Surveys conducted from May to July in 10 states suggest large majorities support key provisions of the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, which President Donald Trump endorsed Wednesday.

The bill would severely reduce “chain migration,” allowing new immigrants to sponsor only spouses and children younger than 21 for permanent residency in the United States — not extended relatives, as is allowed under current law. It also would eliminate the diversity visa lottery, which awards about 50,000 green cards a year at random to applicants from all over the world.

In addition, immigrants would be selected on a points system that favors people with job skills, education, and English fluency.

The surveys, conducted by Pulse Opinion Research on behalf of NumbersUSA, indicated that most people favored cutting legal immigration by 40 percent or more. The percentage of respondents saying that 40 percent was an appropriate cut or not steep enough ranged from a low of 54 percent in Wisconsin to a high of 64 percent in West Virginia.

"It's extremely controversial among the ruling class in Washington," said NumbersUSA President Roy Beck, noting that is not the case in the rest of America.

The results contrast sharply with a Gallup poll in January, when only 36 percent of respondents said they wanted less immigration. Beck said he believes the poll his group commissioned registered high levels of support for immigration reductions because it gave people two key facts that Gallup did not — the current number of annual green cards, more than a million; and the fact that new permanent residents get lifetime work authorization.

The Pulse Opinion Research results bolster claims by White House adviser Stephen Miller, who told reporters Wednesday that political leaders are out of touch with their constituents.

"It's the divide between what Americans think about immigration and how Washington thinks about immigration," he said. "So to everyday Americans, this is the most rational, modest, common-sense, basic thing you can do. Of course you shouldn't have foreign workers displacing American workers."

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, agreed.

"The people in the 1 percent really like the idea of low-cost service workers for their businesses," she said.

So why isn't Congress racing to pass the RAISE Act?

"Like any other bad policy, this policy has developed a constituency and people who support it," said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. 
"That's not unique to immigration."

Vaughan said members of Congress get bombarded by "a well-organized fleet of lobbyists" representing special interests with a large financial stake in the current immigration system. She said regular people, meanwhile, just go about their daily lives. By the time Election Day rolls around, she said, the differences among the candidates on immigration often are muted.

"They get to choose between a Republican who will vote for special interests and a Democrat who will vote for special interests," she said.

Here are highlights from the Pulse Opinion Research surveys:

Florida

  • 61 percent favor reducing legal immigration by 40 percent or more.
  • 66 percent favor ending chain migration.
  • By a 2-1 margin, voters favor ending the diversity lottery.
  • 67 percent say employers should raise wages to attract American workers — even if if leads to higher prices.
  • 74 percent say businesses should be required to recruit Americans facing high poverty and unemployment rates.

Indiana

  • 63 percent favor reducing legal immigration by 40 percent or more.
  • 70 percent favor ending chain migration.
  • By a 3-1 margin, voters favor ending the diversity lottery.
  • 63 percent say employers should raise wages to attract American workers — even if if leads to higher prices.
  • 77 percent say businesses should be required to recruit Americans facing high poverty and unemployment rates.

Michigan

  • 57 percent favor reducing legal immigration by 40 percent or more.
  • 64 percent favor ending chain migration.
  • 55 percent favor ending the diversity lottery.
  • 66 percent say employers should raise wages to attract American workers — even if if leads to higher prices.
  • 74 percent say businesses should be required to recruit Americans facing high poverty and unemployment rates.

Missouri

  • 59 percent favor reducing legal immigration by 40 percent or more.
  • 64 percent favor ending chain migration.
  • By a 2-1 margin, voters favor ending the diversity lottery.
  • 67 percent say employers should raise wages to attract American workers — even if if leads to higher prices.
  • 74 percent say businesses should be required to recruit Americans facing high poverty and unemployment rates.

Montana

  • 57 percent favor reducing legal immigration by 40 percent or more.
  • 63 percent favor ending chain migration.
  • 56 percent favor ending the diversity lottery.
  • 67 percent say employers should raise wages to attract American workers — even if if leads to higher prices.
  • 72 percent say businesses should be required to recruit Americans facing high poverty and unemployment rates.

North Dakota

  • 63 percent favor reducing legal immigration by 40 percent or more.
  • 67 percent favor ending chain migration.
  • By a 3-1 margin, voters favor ending the diversity lottery.
  • 63 percent say employers should raise wages to attract American workers — even if if leads to higher prices.
  • 71 percent say businesses should be required to recruit Americans facing high poverty and unemployment rates.

Ohio

  • 59 percent favor reducing legal immigration by 40 percent or more.
  • 64 percent favor ending chain migration.
  • By a 2-1 margin, voters favor ending the diversity lottery.
  • 65 percent say employers should raise wages to attract American workers — even if if leads to higher prices.
  • 76 percent say businesses should be required to recruit Americans facing high poverty and unemployment rates.

Pennsylvania

  • 55 percent favor reducing legal immigration by 40 percent or more.
  • 64 percent favor ending chain migration.
  • By a 2-1 margin, voters favor ending the diversity lottery.
  • 66 percent say employers should raise wages to attract American workers — even if if leads to higher prices.
  • 75 percent say businesses should be required to recruit Americans facing high poverty and unemployment rates.

West Virginia

  • 64 percent favor reducing legal immigration by 40 percent or more.
  • 68 percent favor ending chain migration.
  • By a 3-1 margin, voters favor ending the diversity lottery.
  • 71 percent say employers should raise wages to attract American workers — even if if leads to higher prices.
  • 81 percent say businesses should be required to recruit Americans facing high poverty and unemployment rates.

Wisconsin

  • 54 percent favor reducing legal immigration by 40 percent or more
  • 63 percent favor ending chain migration.
  • By a 2-1 margin, voters favor ending the diversity lottery.
  • 62 percent say employers should raise wages to attract American workers — even if if leads to higher prices.
  • 71 percent say businesses should be required to recruit Americans facing high poverty and unemployment rates.

(photo credit, homepage images: Gulbenk, Wikimedia; photo credit, article images: Neo198717, Wikimedia)

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