The Role of Contact and Values in Public Attitudes Toward Unauthorized Immigrants

Publication date: 
April 2019
American Immigration Council logo, which features those words on the right and a blue road heading off into a darker blue background on the left. Posted to accompany AIC's report, The Role of Contact and Values in Public Attitudes Toward Unauthorized Immigrants.

When it comes to understanding public attitudes toward immigrants, policy analyses and news stories frequently rely on public opinion polls that are narrow in scope. Analyses of such polls often focus on whether the public (or certain subgroups of the public) supports more or less immigration and how certain groups of people feel about immigrants. These types of analyses rarely dig deeper into why the respondents feel the way they do; in other words, where those feelings are coming from.

This report and the pilot survey upon which it is based seek to overcome this limitation by analyzing the reasons why people are likely to hold particular attitudes about immigrants. Just as with any other public issue, attitudes about immigrants are wrapped up not only with individuals’ personal characteristics, life experiences, and beliefs about a wide range of other issues, but also some of their personal values and the type of contact that they have with immigrants. 

To this end, we surveyed 1,280 native-born U.S. citizens in October 2018 and assessed their views on unauthorized immigrants. We also measured their socio-demographic characteristics, the values they perceive as important, their political beliefs, and their perceptions about a host of social issues. We then used statistical techniques to determine how views on unauthorized immigrants are related to these factors. 

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