Citizenship, Values and Cultural Concerns: What Americans Want From Immigration Reform

The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), in partnership with the religion, policy and politics project at Brookings, conducted one of the largest surveys ever fielded on immigra­tion policy, immigrants, and religious and cultural changes in the U.S.The survey of nearly 4,500 American adults explores the many divisions—political, religious, ethnic, geographical, and generational—within the nation over core values and their relation­ship to immigration.

The accompanying research report, Citizens, Values and Cultural Concerns: What Americans Want from Immigration Reform, authored by PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones, PRRI Research Director Daniel Cox, and PRRI Research Associate Juhem Navarro-Rivera, along with Brookings Senior Fellows E.J. Dionne, Jr. and William Galston, explores general sentiment toward immigrant communities, opinions on the impact that immigrants have on American culture and public support for specific policy approaches to immigration reform. The report also explores support for immigration policy among religious groups and the political implications of the issue for and within both the Democratic and Republican parties.

The following is a summary of the survey’s findings and highlights from the accompanying report:

  • More than 6-in-10 (63%) Americans agree that the immigration system should deal with immigrants who are currently living in the U.S. illegally by allowing them a way to become citizens, provided they meet certain requirements. Less than 1-in-5 (14%) say they should be permitted to become permanent legal residents but not citizens, while approximately 1-in-5 (21%) agree that they should be identified and deported.
  • More than 7-in-10 (71%) Democrats, nearly two-thirds (64%) of independents, and a majority (53%) of Republicans favor an earned path to citizenship.
  • Majorities of all religious groups, including Hispanic Catholics (74%), Hispanic Protestants (71%), black Protestants (70%), Jewish Americans (67%), Mormons (63%), white Catholics (62%), white mainline Protestants (61%), and white evan­gelical Protestants (56%), agree that the immigration system should allow immi­grants currently living in the U.S. illegally to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements.
  • Americans rank immigration reform sixth out of seven issues, far behind economic issues, as the highest political priority for the president and Congress.
  • Nearly half (45%) of Americans say the Republican Party’s position on immigration has hurt the party in recent elections.
  • Americans are more likely to say they trust the Democratic Party, rather than the Republican Party, to do a better job handling the issues of immigration (39% vs. 29%) and illegal immigration (43% vs. 30%). However, nearly 1-in-4 (23%) Americans say they do not trust either party to handle the issue of immigration.
  • Views about immigrants’ impact on American society are strongly associated with political ideology. Conservatives (36%) and liberals (31%) are nearly equally as likely to say that immigrants are changing their own communities a lot. How­ever, conservatives (53%) are significantly more likely than liberals (38%) to say that immigrants are changing American society a lot.
  • Overall, Americans are more likely to have positive rather than negative views about immigrants. A majority (54%) of Americans believe that the growing number of newcomers from other countries helps strengthen American society, while a significant minor­ity (40%) say that newcomers threaten traditional American customs and values.

Download the full report » (PDF)

Read the Executive Summary in Spanish » (PDF)