Openness to Immigration

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On a recent trip to New York, I was able to visit Ellis Island, the spot where so many immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s first came to America. The national park ranger providing the tour indicated that roughly 40 percent of Americans have relatives who passed through that point.

Immigration is still a topic of interest in the United States. The PEW Research Center conducted an analysis in the summer of 2017 to determine people’s attitudes toward foreigners in the US. The analysts also considered potential variations in attitudes based on demographics.

The researchers assessed whether people believed that (1) “If America is too open to people from around the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation,” or (2) “America’s openness to people from all over the world is essential to who we are as a nation.”

Sixty-eight percent of respondents believed that openness was vital to who we are as a nation, compared to just 29 percent who thought that such openness would result in us losing our identity as a nation.

Of course, there were demographic differences, too. Black and Latino respondents were more likely to favor openness to people from around the world than were Whites. Age influenced the responses, too, as younger individuals were more receptive to openness than were older ones.

Education level was also associated with attitudes toward openness. People with a postgraduate degree were most likely to believe inclusion of people from all over the world was essential to what the US is as a nation. Finally, people who held more progressive political attitudes favored openness.

Results show that, overall, Americans continue to value openness to other people, and given the demographic trends, these beliefs are likely to become more accepting over time.