In Mexico, President Obama Expresses Optimism for Immigration Reform, But Many Americans Express Bias against Mexican Immigrants

May 6, 2013

By: Dina Smeltz, Senior Fellow, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy; Craig Kafura, Assistant Director, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy

Public Impressions of Illegal Immigration Flows Exaggerated

Immigration reform gained momentum in the United States after the 2012 presidential election, when the Hispanic vote helped to swing the election conclusively toward President Obama, a fact he alluded to recently while in Mexico. This nationwide Chicago Council survey, released on May 6, 2013, reveals support for some variation of immigration reform, similar to other recent polls. But there is still a lot of grass-roots work to be done to break down stereotypes. Half of Americans overstate unauthorized immigration levels into the United States, which seems to intensify bias against Mexican immigrants and opposition to reform.

KEY FINDINGS
  • The contentious immigration debate on Capitol Hill resembles partisan divides among the public. Democrats and Independents are more supportive of immigration reform options involving a path to citizenship and express more favorable impressions of Mexicans living in the United States than Republicans.
  • At the same time, there have been several shifts in public opinion since 2004 that signal public readiness for reform. This includes an increased preference for the United States, rather than Mexico, to take the lead in dealing with undocumented Mexican immigrants entering the United States. There has also been a sharp decline between 1994 and 2012 in the number who say that immigration is a critical threat to the United States.
  • Just under six in ten Americans have a favorable view of Mexican immigrants in the United States, considerably fewer than those with a favorable view of Brazilian and Chinese immigrants; nine in ten have a positive view of Mexicans living in Mexico.
  • Those who perceive that illegal immigration flows have either declined or stabilized over the past year have a much more positive image of Mexican immigrants living in the United States as well as immigration reform—underscoring the potential power of accurate information.
In Mexico, President Obama Expresses Optimism for Immigration Reform, But Many Americans Express Bias against Mexican Immigrants

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