Understanding Americans' Attitudes Towards Immigrants

New survey data from the IIR shows that positive contact with immigrants is key

Understanding Americans' Attitudes Towards Immigrants

Beginning in 2020, the Institute for Immigration Research (IIR), under the direction of Dr. James Witte, conducted an ambitious survey project aimed at understanding how Americans feel about immigrants and why. In late 2020 and summer 2021, we surveyed approximately 600 respondents in each of seven metropolitan areas: Baltimore-Washington, Boston, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia, San Jose, and Seattle. All surveys were conducted online and focused on three issues:


  • The frequency and quality of contact with specific immigrant groups
  • Attitudes about immigrants and immigration in general
  • Views on the role played by immigrants during the COVID-19 pandemic

The main finding is: Frequent and friendly local contact with any immigrants is associated with a lower likelihood that an individual sees immigration in the United States as a whole as a problem. The implication for those who care about changing Americans' views towards immigrants and advancing immigration reform is clear: think about how to create local opportunities for frequent and friendly interaction as these can lead to changing views on immigrants at the national level.

The IIR's website includes an overview of the project as well as extensive results from each of the 7 metro areas. To learn more, go to https://iir.gmu.edu/publications/ati.

Dr. Marissa Kiss, Ismail Nooraddini, and Cassius Hossfeld worked on this project with Dr. James Witte.