by Michelle Mittelstadt
February 26, 1996
Washington (AP) – Nearly eight of every 10 Americans believe immigration rates should be dramatically scaled back and fully one-fifth want a halt to all immigration, legal or not, a new poll suggests.
The roper poll, commissioned by a small non-profit group that advocates a substantially decreased U.S. population, comes as Congress is poised to tackle bills seeking to thwart illegal immigration and make a dent in legal entries.
Seventy-nine percent of those polled for Negative Population Growth, Inc. said the United States should allow 600,000 or fewer immigrants entry annually. Of that number, 70 percent favored immigration rates of 300,000 or less annually; 54 percent endorsing rates of 100,000 or less. Only 2 percent favored increasing immigration rates.
“This is clearly a mandate that people want low numbers of immigration”, said NPG’s Washington Director, Sharon McCloe Stein, who provided the poll to The Associated Press in advance of its Monday release.
In 1994, the United States granted legal residency, asylum or refugee status to 804,416 foreigners. While illegal immigration numbers can’t be pinpointed with accuracy, at least 300,000 people are believed to enter unlawfully each year.
The poll’s findings were questioned by the National Immigration Forum, which is fighting efforts in Congress to reduce legal immigration.
Lumping legal and illegal immigration into one category and asking respondents to specify a permissible number skews the outcome, said Immigration Forum executive director Frank Sharry.
“You’re asking people who are largely uninformed on the issue to say what’s the right number,” Sharry said. “It’s not an illegitimate question, but all polling is context-dependent and I would suggest they framed their question in such a way as to get the best possible response from their point of view and seem to have done so.”
Sharry said his group’s own polling over the last six months found 8 of every 10 Americans concerned about illegal immigration. But roughly 60 percent of those who had an opinion about immigration thought legal immigration is a good thing, he said.
The NPG poll showed non-Hispanic whites and blacks were far more likely to favor lower immigration rates than Hispanics. Favoring immigration of 300,000 or less annually were 72 percent of blacks polled, 71 percent of non-Hispanic whites, and 52 percent of Hispanics.
Gender and age appeared to cause little difference in respondents’ opinions. Neither did party affiliation. Among Democrats, 72 percent surveyed favored immigration rates of 300,000 or less; as did 70 percent of Republicans.
The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points in the poll of 1,978 men and women age 18 and over interviewed face-to-face over a two-week period in December.
Negative Population Growth, headquartered in Teaneck, N.J., advocates population reductions through lowered birth rates. Recently, however, the group has turned its attention to immigration in the belief that more immediate population reductions can be achieved through lessened immigration.
The group, with some 15,000 members, believes the ideal U.S. population should be 150 million. Currently, the U.S. population stands at 264 million.