Informed Midwesterners More Likely to Support Immigration Reform  


CONTACT: Samantha Skinner | 312.821.7507

December 6, 2012  – A public opinion survey published by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs finds a majority of Midwesterners who have accurate information about shifting immigration flows and changing labor needs support key immigration policy proposals.

According to Chicago Council Survey data, Americans today are considerably less threatened by immigration than they have been in the past two decades. Despite this trend, Midwesterners are split over whether to pursue a comprehensive immigration reform package or an incremental approach (38% comprehensive versus 41% incremental).

“Our survey findings highlight the critical need to address information gaps,” said Dina Smeltz, senior fellow on public opinion and foreign policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “With a focused, robust public education campaign on immigration trends, support could grow for positive rather than punitive reforms.”

The Midwest Immigration Survey Brief (PDF) provides detailed data on the following points:
  • Most Midwesterners are unaware that unauthorized immigration has declined; a majority of those who are aware support immigration reforms.
    A majority of midwesterners (59%) says it is their impression that illegal immigration has increased over the past year.  Those who are aware that illegal immigration has decreased are much more likely (65%) than the Midwest average (45%) to express willingness to allow unauthorized workers to keep their jobs, either with job permits or with a pathway to citizenship. They are also more inclined to support expanding visas for both high-skilled (66%, compared to 44% of Midwest overall) and low-skilled jobs (62%, compared to 47% of Midwest overall).
  • Majorities think most immigrants in Midwest are here illegally; a majority of those who know most are here legally favor immigration reforms.
    Midwesterners are under the impression that most recent immigrants to the United States, including the Midwest, are here illegally. Six in ten midwesterners who correctly think that most immigrants in the Midwest are here legally favor increasing the number of visas for both high-skilled (55%) and low-skilled (61%) work, compared to less than half overall, and a similar proportion prefer to allow unauthorized workers to keep their jobs (60%, with or without a pathway to citizenship). 
  • A majority of Midwesterners who recognize local businesses are having a hard time filling high and low skilled jobs support immigration reforms.
    About two in three Midwesterners think there is a sufficient number of U.S. citizens to fill both high-skill fields such as technology, science, and engineering (67% sufficient, 33% too few) and low-skill fields such as seasonal work, farming, food processing, and home health care (63% sufficient, 37% too few) in the Midwest. At least six in ten among those who say that there is a shortage of U.S. citizens for both high- and low-skilled jobs support proposals to increase the number of visas granted to high- (59%) and low-skilled (64%) foreign workers, respectively, a higher proportion than for the Midwest public overall.

The survey brief draws on data from two Chicago Council Surveys that posed questions about immigration and immigration policy. The first survey, fielded May 25 to June 8, 2012, was part of a series of national surveys that the Council has undertaken since 1974. The second was a Midwest-focused survey on immigration fielded August 16 to 27, 2012, as part of The Chicago Council’s independent Task Force on Immigration and U.S. Economic Competitiveness: A View from the Midwest

Download the Midwest Immigration Survey Brief (PDF).

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The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, founded in 1922, is a prominent, independent and nonpartisan organization committed to influencing the discourse on global issues through contributions to opinion and policy formation, leadership dialogue, and public learning.  The Chicago Council has been conducting nationwide public opinion surveys on American views on foreign policy since 1974.  These surveys provide insights into the current and long-term foreign policy attitudes of the American public on a wide range of global topics. Follow @ChicagoCouncil for updates.

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