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Race, Ethnicity, and American Views of Immigration and Diversity

RESEARCH Public Opinion Survey by Dina Smeltz , Craig Kafura , Candace Rondeaux , Heela Rasool-Ayub , and Deborah Avant
the Statue of Liberty seen through a window from Ellis Island
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Political affiliation is far more closely associated with immigration policy preferences than race or ethnicity, polling finds.

The connections generated by globalization complicate narratives surrounding immigration and diversity. The US is also more racially diverse than ever and national security is shifting, politicized, and tied to identity. In this context, how do different groups understand immigration and diversity? To better understand these relationships, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the New America Foundation have partnered to conduct novel research on the views of Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Native Americans as part of the 2022 Chicago Council Survey.

Key Findings

  • While a slight majority (53%) of all Americans say that growing diversity makes the country a better place to live, Asian Americans (66%) and Hispanic Americans (61%) are the most likely to agree.
  • Americans tend to say that legal immigration into the United States should be kept at present levels (43%, with 28% each saying it should either increase or decrease). Hispanic Americans (34%) are the most likely group to favor increased legal immigration to the United States, while a majority of African Americans (56%) and half of Asian Americans (50%) say it should remain at present levels.
  • Partisanship is significantly associated with views on immigration and diversity across and within racial and ethnic groups.
  • Among those who self-identify as Democrats, Asian Americans (84%) and white Americans (77%) are the groups most likely to view increasing diversity as making the country a better place to live, while white Americans who self-identify as Republicans (31%) are the least likely to say so.
  • The group most likely to support increasing legal immigration to the United States are white Democrats (47%), followed closely by Asian American Democrats (44%). Conversely, the group most likely to favor decreasing legal immigration levels are white Republicans (48%).

Positive Views of the Growing Diversity in the United States      

In general, Americans have a positive view of a more diverse United States. A slight majority (53%) say that growing diversity makes the country a better place to live, and only 15 percent say it makes the country a worse place. Among racial and ethnic groups, Asian Americans are the most likely to see a more diverse country as a better country: 66 percent say so. They are closely followed by Hispanic Americans (61%). A narrow majority of Black Americans (52%) and half of white Americans (50%) agree. The group with the most negative views of increasing diversity: Native Americans, who are evenly divided in how they see it affecting the country (34% no difference, 33% worse, 30% better).

"bar chart showing views of increasing US diversity by race"

Across racial and ethnic groups, self-identified partisanship is importantly associated with perceptions of diversity and the United States. Among those who self-identify as Democrats, Asian Americans (84%) and white Americans (77%) are the groups most likely to view increasing diversity as making the country a better place to live, while white Americans who self-identify as Republicans (31%) are the least likely to say so. 1

Partisanship is less associated with views of diversity among those who identify as Hispanic Americans and Black Americans than for other groups. Among Hispanic Americans, majorities of Democrats (70%) and Independents (59%) and a plurality of Republicans (45%) view increasing diversity as making the United States better. And while Black Democrats are more likely than other African Americans to view increasing diversity as making the country better, the differences are notably smaller than for other racial groups.

"bar chart showing views of US diversity by race and party"

Racial, Partisan Divides over Levels of Legal Immigration

Immigration plays a significant role in the growing diversity of the United States. Across all groups, the prevailing view is that legal immigration to the United States should be kept at present levels (43% overall). A majority of African Americans (56%), half of Asian Americans (50%) and pluralities of Native Americans (42%), white Americans (41%), and Hispanic Americans (40%) agree. Hispanic Americans (34%) and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Americans (32%) are the groups most likely to favor increased legal immigration to the United States, while Native Americans (37%) and white Americans (32%) are most likely to favor decreasing legal immigration.

"bar chart of views of immigration levels by race"

Political affiliation is far more closely associated with Americans’ immigration policy preferences than is their racial or ethnic identification. However, when it comes to legal immigration, both race and partisanship have clear associations with Americans’ responses.

Partisanship is most clearly associated with immigration attitudes among white Americans. A plurality of white Democrats (47%) favor increasing legal immigration, while another four in 10 (41%) favor maintaining current levels. By contrast, a plurality of white Republicans (48%) favor decreasing legal immigration, with another four in 10 (42%) favoring keeping immigration levels as they are.

Black Americans provide a contrary example; a majority across the political spectrum favor maintaining legal immigration at present levels. That includes Black Democrats, who are the group of Democrats most likely to favor keeping immigration levels as they are (56%), and the least likely group of Democrats to support increased immigration (23%).

Asian Americans, too, show strong partisan divisions over legal immigration. AAPI Democrats are divided between increasing (44%) and maintaining (43%) immigration levels, while the data suggest that AAPI Republicans are more in favor of maintaining or decreasing legal immigration levels.

Hispanic Americans fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, with partisanship having notable but less severe association with immigration attitudes. A plurality of Hispanic American Democrats (42%) favor maintaining immigration at present levels, with over a third (37%) supporting an increase in immigration levels. Hispanic American Republicans are divided between decreasing (41%) and maintaining (37%) legal immigration levels.

"multiple bar charts showing views of immigration levels by race and party"

Partisanship Dominates Views of Immigrants and Refugees as a Threat

While Americans tend to think that legal immigration should be maintained, previous surveys show that Republican concern about undocumented immigration heightens their fears of immigrant inflows. Over the past two decades, the American public overall has become less likely to consider large numbers of immigrants and refugees coming into the United States a critical threat, and in this survey, four in 10 Americans (39%) consider an inflow of immigrants and refugees a critical threat. Matching their less enthusiastic views about immigration more generally, the group most likely to view this issue as a threat are Native Americans: half (51%) label it a critical threat. By contrast, a third or fewer of Asian Americans (33%), Hispanic Americans (32%), and Black Americans (29%) see immigration as a critical threat. White Americans fall in between these two groupings, with four in 10 (44%) naming immigration a critical threat. 

"bar chart of views of threats to the US by race"

However, the strongest predictor of concern over immigration is not race or ethnicity—it is partisan affiliation. Across all racial and ethnic subgroups, Republicans are consistently and substantially more likely than Democrats or Independents of the same race to consider a potential inflow of immigrants and refugees a critical threat to the country. This is especially true for white Americans. Three-quarters of white Republicans (73%), but only one in 10 white Democrats (10%), view immigration as a critical threat to the country. Hispanic Americans are similarly divided along party lines, though to a lesser degree. A majority of Hispanic American Republicans (59%) view the issue as a critical threat, while just a quarter (25%) of Hispanic American Democrats say the same. Data from the 2022 Chicago Council Survey suggests that the same division exists among Black and AAPI groups as well, though the sample contains a relatively small number of Republicans from either group due to their strong Democratic leanings.

"bar chart showing views of immigration as a threat by race and party"

Conclusion

While there are some differences by race on American attitudes toward diversity in the United States and support for immigration, partisan affiliation is a stronger factor in these attitudes. Across all racial and ethnic subgroups, Republicans are more threatened by immigrants and refugees than Democrats or Independents. These results prompt additional questions. What are the concerns and benefits that people from different groups attribute to immigration? And how do people from different groups see their political party affiliations interacting with their views on immigration? Future research is needed to help answer these questions.

  • 1While the reported value for Native American Republicans is lower, the sample size is quite small (n=28) and the margin of error is accordingly too large to take the results as more than suggestive of the partisan divisions among Native Americans.
About the Authors
Senior Fellow, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
Headshot for Dina Smeltz
Dina Smeltz, a polling expert, has more than 25 years of experience designing and fielding international social and political surveys. Prior to joining the Council to lead its annual survey of American attitudes on US foreign policy, she served in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the US State Department's Office of Research from 1992 to 2008.
Headshot for Dina Smeltz
Assistant Director, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
Craig Kafura is the assistant director for public opinion and foreign policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a Security Fellow with the Truman National Security Project, and a Pacific Forum Young Leader. At the Council, he coordinates work on public opinion and foreign policy and is a regular contributor to the public opinion and foreign policy blog Running Numbers.
Senior Director, Future Frontlines and Planetary Politics
Candace Rondeaux headshot
Candace Rondeaux directs Future Frontlines, a public intelligence service for next generation security and democratic resilience, and the Planetary Politics initiative.
Candace Rondeaux headshot
Director, Planetary Politics
Heela Rasool-Ayub headshot
Heela Rasool-Ayub is the Director for the Planetary Politics initiative at the New America Foundation.
Heela Rasool-Ayub headshot
Senior Research Fellow, Planetary Politics
Deborah Avant headshot
Deborah Avant is a Senior Research Fellow with Planetary Politics at New America and is Distinguished University Professor and Sié Chéou-Kang Chair at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver.
Deborah Avant headshot

This analysis is based on data from the 2022 Chicago Council Survey of the American public on foreign policy, a project of the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. The 2022 Chicago Council Survey was conducted July 15–August 1, 2022 by Ipsos using its large-scale nationwide online research panel, KnowledgePanel, in both English and Spanish among a weighted national sample of 3,106 adults aged 18 or older living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is +/- 1.8 percentage points. The margin of error is higher for partisan subgroups or for partial-sample items. 

Partisan identification is based on how respondents answered a standard partisan self-identification question: “Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or what?”

The 2022 Chicago Council Survey is made possible by the generous support of the Crown family and the Korea Foundation. With the support of New America Foundation, the survey also includes specific oversamples of Hispanic, Asian-American/Pacific Islander, Black, and Native American respondents. See the Appendix for more specifics on these sample group sizes and characteristics. 

2022 Chicago Council Survey Demographics by Race/Ethnicity 

 

 

White, non-Hispanic (n=1534) 

Black, non-Hispanic (n=470) 

Asian, Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander (n=405) 

American Indian or Alaska Native (n=123) 

Hispanic (n=538) 

 

Average age 

51 

46 

46 

50 

43 

Gender 

 

Female 

51 

55 

54 

54 

50 

 

Male 

49 

45 

46 

46 

50 

Education 

 

Less than high school 

18 

25 

 

High school 

27 

35 

16 

19 

33 

 

Some college 

28 

30 

23 

44 

24 

 

Bachelor's degree or higher 

39 

26 

57 

20 

18 

Ideology 

 

Liberal 

26 

35 

36 

18 

32 

 

Moderate 

33 

44 

38 

41 

39 

 

Conservative 

40 

18 

25 

35 

28 

Partisanship 

 

Republican 

35 

17 

28 

17 

 

Democratic 

25 

61 

46 

21 

44 

 

Independent 

39 

31 

36 

47 

39 

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