The Cable

America Actually Likes Immigrants and a Global Role, Survey Finds

Donald Trump’s victory suggests a nativist lurch, but a new Pew study suggests the population isn’t entirely on board.

POMONA, CA - JULY 26:  Immigrants wave flags after being sworn in as U.S. citizens in naturalization ceremonies on July 26, 2007 in Pomona, California. Some of the 6,000 people taking their citizenship oath are part of a flood of immigrants trying to beat a July 30 deadline when the cost of becoming a citizen goes up. First-time green card will go from $325 to $1,010, temporary resident status will increase from $255 to $710, and naturalization will cost $300 more. To meet the flood of immigrant applications, immigration offices had to extend their office hours.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
POMONA, CA - JULY 26: Immigrants wave flags after being sworn in as U.S. citizens in naturalization ceremonies on July 26, 2007 in Pomona, California. Some of the 6,000 people taking their citizenship oath are part of a flood of immigrants trying to beat a July 30 deadline when the cost of becoming a citizen goes up. First-time green card will go from $325 to $1,010, temporary resident status will increase from $255 to $710, and naturalization will cost $300 more. To meet the flood of immigrant applications, immigration offices had to extend their office hours. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

In Donald Trump, the United States just elected a man who promised an “America First” approach to the world, one that would be tough on illegal immigrants and terrorists, even if that meant unprecedented (and possibly unconstitutional) measures like mass deportations and Muslim registries.

But Americans themselves are more positive about immigration than they have been for decades, are concerned about discrimination toward Muslims, and welcome an America engaged with the world, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.

The report, focused on public perceptions about Trump’s transition into power, offers plenty of insights into how Americans view his cabinet appointments, concerns about his conflicts of interest, opinions on the Affordable Care Act, and more.

Among the headline findings, the study shows that more than six in ten Americans say immigrants strengthen the United States because of their hard work and talents, the highest level in more than twenty years of Pew Research Center surveys. A mere 27 percent think immigrants are a burden on the country because they take jobs, housing and health care. The split inside the GOP, though, is generational: Younger Republicans generally view immigration favorably, but just over half of Republicans age 50 and above see immigrants as a burden.

Survey respondents seem generally pro-Muslim as well. A majority — 57 percent — agree there is a lot of discrimination against Muslims in the United States.

Still, people respondents aren’t hiding their heads in the sand about recent tensions over immigration in America: 59 percent say there are strong conflicts between immigrants and native-born Americans. Though nationality may not be nearly as important as ideology: A whopping 85 percent say there are “strong” or “very strong” conflicts today between Democrats and Republicans.

And while Trump’s neo-isolationist message seemed to reverberate with his base on the trail, with calls to lessen U.S. overseas commitments and focus resources at home, most Americans see a continued overseas role for the United States, the survey suggests. Some 57 percent think the world’s problems would be even worse without U.S. involvement; one-third thinks U.S. efforts to solve global problems usually makes things worse.

The survey — which generally squares with one from the Chicago Council earlier this year — suggests the United States is in a strangely ambiguous position, as underscored by Hillary Clinton’s large (and growing) lead in the popular vote total. In many countries that have taken a populist or anti-immigration turn, like Hungary or Poland, large chunks of the populace are in step with their leaders’ core message. But many Americans appear to be at odds with the next U.S. president. 

The Pew report is based on telephone interviews with 1,502 adults across the country conducted between Nov. 30 and Dec. 5. Of course, since it’s still 2016, it’s probably not wise to take polls without a grain (or a whole giant helping) of salt.

Photo credit: DAVID MCNEW/Getty Images

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