More than half of Americans say there is an invasion at the southern border, according to a new study NPR/Ipsos pollPart of a broader decline in support for immigrants in general.
Republicans have negative views of immigrants. But they aren’t the only ones receptive to radical rhetoric on immigration, the survey found.
Immigrant invasion rhetoric resonates with many Americans
The poll found that most Americans, including three-quarters of Republicans, believe it is somewhat or completely true that the United States is “facing an invasion” on the southern border.
U.S. Border Patrol agents have made more than 1.8 million apprehensions along the U.S.-Mexico border, an annual record for apprehensions with two months left in the fiscal year.
Nearly half of those immigrants were quickly removed under the public health mandate known as Title 42, which has been in place since the pandemic began. But hundreds of thousands were allowed to seek asylum and other protections in the United States.
Presidents of the Republic increasingly framing the situation as an invasion. Immigrant advocates say the term has a long history in white nationalist circles, and that such extreme rhetoric can incite more violence against immigrants.
However, the survey shows that the word invasion is accepted by a wide range of Americans to describe what is happening at the border.
Michael Cisternino, a Republican from Nevada, said in a follow-up interview that “we’re not actually testing enough people to safely travel to the rest of the country.”
“We the American people really have no control over who gets in, where they go or what they’re going to do when they get there, whether they’re criminals or they’re not criminals,” he noted. .
Studies consistently show that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be incarcerated than native-born Americans. In an NPR/Ipsos poll, a plurality of Republicans answered incorrectly that immigrants are more likely to commit crimes.
Republicans were more likely to support rhetoric echoing the so-called “replacement theory,” the bogus conspiracy theory that Jews or elites are deliberately replacing white Americans with immigrants and people of color.
More than a third of respondents agree that “Native Americans are being systematically replaced by immigrants,” including more than half of Republicans. Nearly half of all Americans say “Democrats are opening our borders to more immigrants,” and more than 70% of Republicans agree.
The immigration issue is a pressing one for Republicans
The immigration issue is more pressing for Republicans than for Democrats. A quarter of Republican respondents say immigration is one of the “most worrisome” issues facing the country, while 4% of Democrats rate immigration as a top concern.
“A lot of immigrants come here for safety, and a lot of them come here for an opportunity,” said Neil-Gopal Sharma, a Democratic supporter from North Carolina, in a follow-up interview.
Sharma’s parents immigrated from India to Canada, where he was born, and later immigrated to the United States. Sharma thinks it is becoming increasingly acceptable to blame immigrants and others who appear different for the country’s problems.
“This kind of racist conversation is being started. So I’m not surprised by that,” he said.
False claims about immigrants, especially surrounding fentanyl
A large number of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, blame immigrants for the rise in fentanyl deaths, although there is no evidence to directly link them to the problem.
It’s true that fentanyl overdose deaths have increased in recent years, and much of America’s fentanyl is smuggled across the border, but experts say most fentanyl and other illegal drugs are smuggled through official ports of entry. Concealed in large trucks and passenger vehicles, relatively small amounts are smuggled across the border by cartels between those ports.
Almost nothing is smuggled by migrants, said Victor Manjars, Jr., a former Border Patrol agent who is now a professor at the University of Texas at El Paso.
“The probability that they’re carrying some kind of illegal drug is probably close to zero,” Manjares said.
“Most of that fentanyl goes through the port of entry,” he added.
However, 6 in 10 Republicans incorrectly said “the vast majority” of fentanyl entering the U.S. is smuggled by immigrants.
Statements of false, inaccurate or incomplete information
Similarly, more than half of Republicans say immigrants are “more likely” to use public assistance benefits, even though many immigrants are barred from using most federal benefit programs. Less than a quarter of Republicans correctly identified the statement as false.
“These false, misleading or incomplete information reports are definitely gaining more traction with Republicans,” said Mallory Newall, vice president of Ipsos, which conducted the poll.
But discrimination is not the only reason.
“What we see here in our poll is that your willingness to believe these false or incomplete reports about migration depends not only on your party, but also on where you get your news,” Newall said.
Republicans who get their news from Fox News and conservative outlets are more likely to believe false or misleading stories, Newall says, and more likely to believe these claims are “absolutely true.”
That finding was especially strong when it came to so-called “ghost planes.” Republicans accuse the Biden administration of organizing secret flights that transport immigrants from the border to communities across the country. But immigrant advocates point that out Those flights are neither secret nor newAnd Republican critics accuse him of fear-mongering for political gain.
The survey asked whether America is “secretly transporting sibling immigrants across the country at night.” Among Republicans whose primary news source is Fox or conservative media, 8 in 10 said the report was true, Newall said. However, Republicans are not so sure who gets their messages elsewhere; Only 4 out of 10 answered that it was true.
Support for immigration declines and approval of a border wall increases
When NPR surveyed Americans about immigration in 2018, three out of four respondents agreed that “immigrants are an important part of our American identity.”
Today, that number has dwindled considerably.
That’s not the only sign of eroding support for immigrants in recent polls.
When asked four years ago, nearly two-thirds of those surveyed preferred a path to legal status. dreamers, Undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. Now that support has dwindled to a slim majority, fueled in large part by a sharp decline among Republicans and independents.
There has been a modest but steady increase in support for a wall on the southern border, from 38% in favor four years ago to 46% now.
It is not known why those numbers changed. Ipsos’ Mallory Newall suspects the explanation is tied to broader concerns about inflation and the economy.
“One thing we do know is that during bad economic conditions, for example the 2009 recession, support for migration declines,” he said.
There is a theory that if there is chaos on the southern border, support for migrants will decrease. And the spread of false and misleading claims may also be a factor.
The scope of false and misleading claims may be increasing
The survey suggests that the scope of some false and misleading claims is increasing.
Four years ago, NPR asked if “immigrants are more likely to commit crimes or be incarcerated than US-born people.” At that time, more than 60% of respondents correctly identified the statement lie. But when asked again this year, only 49% got it right.
That’s not the only question on which Americans’ understanding of immigration seems to have diminished over the past four years.
In 2018, 6 in 10 respondents correctly said that the majority of undocumented immigrants in the United States carry. For more than a decade in the country. This time, 43% answered correctly; Almost as many said they didn’t know.
“Historically there have been many issues related to migration that have sometimes deliberately distorted the facts,” said Sophia Jordan Wallace, a political science professor at the University of Washington who studies false and misleading claims about migration.
Wallace noted that American politics has a long tradition of blaming immigrants for real problems facing the country as a way to rally voters, regardless of whether there is any connection between immigrants and the problems they are accused of causing.
Those false or false claims don’t always make it into the mainstream. But sometimes, Wallace says, they do.
“Once it’s out there, it’s hard to fix,” he said.
The NPR/Ipsos poll was conducted July 28-29, 2022 with a sample of 1,116 online adults. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent for all respondents.
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