Ipsos Poll: Public Opposes Visa Workers by 2:1 Margin

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Americans oppose the inflow of foreign visa workers and seasonal workers by roughly two-to-one during the coronavirus epidemic and crash, according to a new survey by the highly ranked Ipsos polling firm.

The strongest opposition in the NPR-funded poll came from women, of whom just 24 percent supported the continued inflow of foreign workers, such as H-1B and OPT graduates, H-2B seasonal laborers, and J-1 university workers.

The poll is good news for President Donald Trump, who announced additional curbs August 3 on the H-1B outsourcing program. It is also bad news business groups who failed to sneak a vast job-outsourcing program through the Senate on August 5.

The July 30-31 poll of 1,115 adults asked:

Should the federal government restrict immigration to the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic by doing each of the following?  Banning the entry of foreign guest workers and seasonal workers into the U.S.

The exclusion was supported by 58 percent of respondents, including 64 percent of people aged between 35 and 54, 58 percent of people who earn between $50,000 and $100,000, and 56 percent of people in the Midwest.

But the poll also showed large “Don’t know’ responses, including 17 percent of women, and 22 percent of voters aged 18 to 34.

In comparison to most polls, which usually show rising support for migration among the wealthy, the Ipsos survey showed people who earn more than $100,000 have the strongest opposition to visa workers — 61 percent. This group also has the lowest “Don’t know” response of just 10 percent.

The visa worker question was part of a larger poll that showed strong opposition to migration amid the pandemic. For example, 78 percent supported “Temporarily closing the U.S. border, except for essential travel.” Only 14 percent opposed closing the borders.

Fifty-eight percent supported “Banning the entry of asylum seekers and refugees into the U.S.”

The poll showed 31 percent to 11 percent strong support for the statement: “When jobs are scarce, employers should prioritize hiring people of this country over immigrants.” The overall response for that question was 52 percent agree, 15 percent disagree, and 23 percent “neither agree nor disagree.”

The poll reflects Americans’ split attitudes towards migration. Progressives and conservatives hold strong ideological opinions, but a vast swath of non-ideological voters — including Hispanics — want to both welcome some legal immigrants and also force employers to hire all Americans first.

This decent tension was spotlighted by comments from some of the respondents:

“I feel like we need to take care of America first,” Tammy Bunce, a Republican respondent from Queen Creek, Ariz. “We should be staying at home, and I think other countries should not be coming in until we have the coronavirus especially under control.”

Another respondent, Robert Torres of San Leandro, Calif., is a third-generation immigrant [sic] from Mexico who identifies as politically independent. He said: “Right now is not a very good time to be immigrating.”

That’s partly because of the pandemic, Torres says, but also because “there’s a lot of undocumented here that should be documented before we start adding to the immigration.”

Pro-migration advocates try to stigmatize this tension as “xenophobia,” as if Americans have an uncontrollable hatred of foreigners.

But pro-migration advocates found some data in the survey to cheer. For example, 37 percent said they “strongly agree” that “immigrants are an important part of our American identity.”

The public split evenly on many questions, including “There are enough immigrants in America already, and our government needs to pause further immigration,” “The U.S. should give priority to immigrants who speak English,” “Most immigrants to the United States do not easily assimilate into American society.” But large percentages also dodged the questions, saying, “Neither agree not disagree” to the questions — and also to the establishment’s demand for more migration.






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