Republican presidential contender Donald Trump may claim to speak in the name of the “American people,” but the fact is that most Americans continue to reject his nativist rhetoric of fear and hate. This is apparent from the results of a survey conducted by the Brookings Institution and Public Religion Research Institute between April 4 and May 2, 2016. The survey reveals that, despite a great deal of collective anxiety over terrorism and the impact of growing immigrant communities on U.S. society, most Americans do not buy into harsh views on immigration.
As a starting point, the survey examined how many Americans are worried about a terrorist attack. Given the terrorist shootings in San Bernardino and in Paris at the end of 2015 (the survey was conducted before the Orlando massacre), it comes as no surprise that just over half (51 percent) of survey respondents “report feeling somewhat or very worried that they or a member of their family will become a victim of terrorism.” This marks an increase of 18 percentage points since late 2014, when only 33 percent of respondents harbored such a fear.
Yet, despite these fears, most respondents did not succumb to the temptation to scapegoat all immigrants or all Muslims for the actions of a relatively small numbers of terrorists. For instance, 58 percent “oppose placing a temporary ban on Muslims from other countries entering the U.S.,” compared to 40 percent who support such a measure. Likewise, 55 percent “oppose passing a law that would deny Syrian refugees entrance to the U.S.,” while 44 percent support such a law.
Nor did most respondents buy into Trump’s views on the U.S.-Mexico border, undocumented immigration, or the economic impact of immigrants. Among the respondents:
- 61 percent “say immigrants living in the U.S. illegally should be allowed a way to become citizens,” compared to 21 percent say that they should be deported.
- 58 percent oppose building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, while 41 percent support the wall.
- 47 percent believe that “immigrants strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents,” while 43 percent say that “immigrants are a burden on the country because they take jobs, housing, and healthcare.”
- 68 percent say that “new immigrants mostly take jobs Americans do not want,” compared to 25 percent who believe that these “immigrants take jobs away from American citizens.”
While these findings are in some ways welcome, the fact remains that a significant minority of respondents believe that immigrants are an economic drain, that Muslim immigrants should be temporarily banned from entering the country, and that we should build a wall between the United States and Mexico. However these beliefs are built on fear and ignorance, not evidence.
FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Election 2016, featured