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Immigration Attitudes

UMD Poll Finds Majority of Americans Don’t View Immigrants as Criminals

By Sara Gavin


Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Central Americans who spent weeks traveling across Mexico wait to apply for asylum in the United States.

As the Trump administration removes top Department of Homeland Security officials, threatens to close the Mexico-U.S. border and promises to get tougher on “criminals” who cross it, results from a new University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll show most Americans don’t believe undocumented immigrants are more likely to commit crimes than American citizens.

The poll, conducted with a nationally representative sample of 3,015 respondents March 15–April 2, probed American attitudes on a variety of issues related to immigration, including the controversial separation of migrant families.

Specifically, 54% of people surveyed for the poll said that undocumented immigrants are not more likely to commit crimes than American citizens, compared with 30% who said they are more likely. However, 56% of Republicans polled agreed that immigrants were more likely to commit crimes, while 82% of Democrats said the opposite.

“Despite the typical partisan divide on this issue, President Trump’s rhetoric and tendency to refer to immigrants as ‘criminals’ could be problematic for him moving forward, as our results show even a large number of Republicans don’t share that view,” said Shibley Telhami, director of the UMD Critical Issues Poll and the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development.

He will share further details at the “Immigrant Stories” event today, part of the university’s Year of Immigration and Social Justice Day.

Other findings from the new Critical Issues Poll include:

  • A majority of Americans (58%) say immigration raids conducted by the Trump administration are targeting all undocumented immigrants, regardless of whether they have a criminal record. While majorities of Democrats (81%) and independents (52%) say that the raids are targeting all undocumented immigrants, Republicans are evenly divided among those who say they’re targeting all undocumented immigrants (35%) and only those who have a criminal record (37%). 
  • When asked about immigration helping or hurting the United States, 42% say that immigration helps the country more than it hurts it. Again, there is a partisan divide on this issue, with 41% of Republicans saying it hurts more than it helps in contrast with 67% of Democrats who say it helps more. 
  • Americans are evenly divided between those who say it should be easier for people to legally immigrate to the United States (39%) and those who say it should be harder (38%). While 53% of Democrats say it should be easier, 56% of Republicans say it should be harder. 


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