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More Americans want less immigration

A border agent talks to a group of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022, in Tijuana, Mexico. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A border agent talks to a group of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022, in Tijuana, Mexico. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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Americans are increasingly unhappy about immigration levels, according to a new Gallup survey.

Only 28% of Americans tell Gallup they’re satisfied with the amount of immigration.

And the dissatisfaction is mostly driven by those who want less immigration, not more.

Gallup says the overall unhappiness with the level of immigration hasn’t been this high since 2012.

And the amount of people saying they are dissatisfied because they want less immigration, 40%, hasn’t been that high since 2016.

Among the 63% saying they are dissatisfied, 15% say they want the level of immigration to stay the same, and 8% want to see more immigration.

Lydia Saad, director of U.S. Social Research at Gallup, said this year’s poll shows a continuation of the mounting concerns Americans have had about Immigration since 2021.

Nearly 40% of people said two years ago that they were satisfied with the level of immigration.

Since then, the share of people who are unhappy about immigration and want less of it has doubled.

“What was interesting this year is that Republicans’ dissatisfaction kind of leveled off where it was last year, with about 7 in 10 Republicans saying they're dissatisfied and want immigration decreased,” Saad said. “Whereas we saw a continued increase among Democrats holding that position. That went from only 2% in 2021 to 11% in 2022, and now it's 19%.”

Saad said the “stew of issues that make up the current crisis” at the border apparently has more Democrats seeing immigration as a problem.

Still, a majority of Democrats, 52%, remain satisfied with the level of immigration (40%) or want it increased (12%).

Ernesto Castaneda, director of the Immigration Lab at American University, said people responding to this survey were likely influenced by what he said are misleading border encounter numbers, paired with regular images of crowds of asylum-seekers and headline-grabbing stories of migrants being bused from the border to northern cities.

“Public opinion is not created in a vacuum,” Castaneda said via email. “It reflects debates in the media and does not necessarily reflect reality.”

Castaneda said the surge in border encounters has been exaggerated.

Government data shows around 450,000 encounters in 2020 before rising to 1.7 million in 2021 and 2.3 million in 2022.

But Castaneda said those figures count individual migrants multiple times as they repeatedly try for entry during Title 42, a policy used to turn migrants away to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“While the encounter numbers have been widely reported across media outlets, regardless of their perceived political orientation, encounters are different from distinct individuals,” he said.

When people don’t have legal avenues to migrate for work, education, or family renunciation, the process will look more chaotic with bottlenecks at the southern border, Castaneda said.

He contends that those encounter numbers will drop when Title 42 ends.

Title 42’s future remains up in the air. The Supreme Court was preparing to hear arguments in the coming weeks from states concerned about an influx of migrants that they say would follow the repeal of Title 42. But the case was removed Thursday from the court’s argument calendar.

President Joe Biden has said he plans to let Title 42 expire in May.

Immigration is one of about 20 topics that Gallup includes in its annual Mood of the Nation survey.

Immigration is the area Republicans are least satisfied with, while it’s more of a middle-of-the-pack concern for Democrats and independents.

Older people are also increasingly likely to want less immigration, the survey showed.

Fifty-five percent of people 55 and older who are unhappy about immigration want to see less of it, up from just 21% saying the same two years ago.

There has also been an increase in that sentiment among people 35 to 54, up to 40% from 23%.

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Just 16% of people ages 18 to 34 who are dissatisfied want to see a decrease in immigration.

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