Number of Americans Who See Immigration as a Critical Threat to the United States at Lowest Level in Two Decades

The 2012 Chicago Council Survey reveals that Americans have grown less concerned over the last decade about large numbers of immigrants—legal or illegal—coming to live and work in the United States. In addition, a growing number of Americans support keeping legal immigration at its current level or increasing it.

For the first time since the question was first asked by the Council in 1994, only a minority (40%) of Americans consider a large influx of immigrants and refugees a “critical threat” to the United States. Fewer now than ever recorded in Chicago Council Survey history (53%) say that “controlling and reducing illegal immigration” is a very important foreign policy goal for the United States.

The 2012 Chicago Council Survey results show that concern about many threats has lessened, including terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism. However, immigration has seen the greatest decline of all threats currently asked about. Since 1994, public perceptions of immigration as a critical threat has declined 32 points, and reducing illegal immigration as a top goal has declined 19 points.

The survey brief includes detailed findings on the following points:

  • Plurality of Americans support maintaining current immigration levels
  • Republicans’ concerns remain steady; Democrats and Independents less threatened
  • Among public, bipartisan support is strong for immigration reform
  • Midwesterners feel more threatened than broader American public

American Public Opinion on Immigration (PDF)

2012 Chicago Council Survey Report Cover

Survey Home

Full Report (PDF)

Topline Questionnaire (PDF)

Data (zip)

Press Release

Press Coverage

Release Event 

Release Event Presentation - Bouton (PDF)
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