Love the Food, Though!

The past decade’s great influx of immigrants has strained but not worn out Americans’ welcome. Indeed, a Gallup poll finds people better-disposed toward immigration now than in the early 1990s. The total number of Americans who believe the level of immigration should be increased (12 percent) or kept the same (36 percent) almost exactly matches the number who feel it should be reduced (49 percent). By contrast, a 1993 poll found 65 percent wanting the level decreased, 7 percent wanting it increased and 27 percent wanting it kept the same. Beyond the simple yeas and nays, the current poll detects a nuanced pattern of opinion on how immigrants affect life here. On the plus side, 54 percent of respondents feel food, music and the arts have been made better by immigrants’ presence, vs. 10 percent saying these things have been made worse. (The rest see immigration having “no effect.”) But just 12 percent think immigrants have made the public schools better, while 42 percent feel they’ve made schools worse. Opinion is even more negative about immigration’s impact on taxes (12 percent “better,” 50 percent “worse”) and crime (8 percent “better,” 50 percent “worse”). Asked how it has affected “job opportunities for you and your family,” respondents were far more likely to say “worse” (37 percent) than “better” (14 percent). They’re less apt to say immigration has a bad effect on “the economy in general” (32 percent “better,” 36 percent “worse”). Opinion is also mixed about immigration’s effect on “social and moral values” (25 percent “better,” 30 percent “worse”). While the “worse” vote exceeded the “better” vote on nearly every specific issue, though, 29 percent said immigration has made “the overall quality of life” better here, while 28 percent said the influx has made it worse. And on the broad question of whether immigration is “a good thing or a bad thing for this country today,” “good” surpassed “bad” by 52 percent to 42 percent. Respondents were much more positive in their assessment of immigration “in the past”—i.e., when their own forebears stepped off the boat—with “good” (75 percent) far exceeding “bad” (20 percent).