Survey: Most — except Trump supporters — view immigrants positively

Published 7:24 pm Friday, April 1, 2016

By Pamela Constable

The Washington Post

Registered Democrats and Republicans remain sharply divided in their views toward immigrants and Muslims, according to a survey released Thursday by the Pew Research Center, with much higher percentages of Republican voters supporting a border wall with Mexico and extra scrutiny on Muslims.

Overall, however, a majority of registered voters — and most Democrats — expressed a positive view of immigrants. Responses among GOP voters varied widely depending on which primary candidate they support.

Those favoring Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump expressed by far the most negative views of immigrants, and those favoring Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, were by far the most positive. Supporters of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) came closest to tracking with voter responses overall.

Nationwide, 57 percent of voters said immigrants strengthen the country through work and talent, while 35 percent said immigrants are a burden because they take jobs, housing and health care away from those born in this country.

That ratio was the most positive since Pew started asking the question in 1994. Back then, 31 percent of voters viewed immigrants positively, while 63 percent considered them a burden.

Favorable perceptions have climbed steadily since, according to annual Pew polls.

Among voters favoring Trump, 69 percent called immigrants a drain on society. Supporters of Cruz — himself the son of Cuban immigrants — were more mixed, with 51 percent seeing immigrants as a burden and 36 percent as a boon.

Backers of Kasich were far more moderate, with 49 percent seeing immigrants as a benefit and 40 percent as a burden.

On the Democratic side, the great majority of responders — 78 percent who back Hillary Clinton and 82 percent who favor Sanders — said immigrants were a positive addition to the United States.

When asked about illegal immigrants, the contrasts between both parties were not quite as sharp — with the exception of Trump supporters.

About three-quarters of all voters said a path should be found for some undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States legally. Clinton and Sanders supporters agreed by 87 and 90 percent, respectively. On the GOP side, 58 percent of Cruz supporters and 75 percent of Kasich backers agreed. But more than half of Trump supporters — 52 percent — said undocumented immigrants should not be allowed to stay.

Eighty-four percent of Trump backers expressed support for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, compared with about 67 percent of Republicans overall. Fewer Cruz and Kasich backers said the government should build a wall, and the great majority of both Clinton and Sanders supporters opposed such a plan.

On the separate topic of whether Muslims in the United States should be subjected to greater scrutiny at a time of terrorist attacks and refugee surges, 61 percent of all voters said no, as did 79 percent of Democrats.

Trump supporters took the opposite view, with 64 percent supporting such scrutiny. Among Cruz and Kasich backers, 53 and 37 percent, respectively, took that position.