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Politics

University's Polling Institute Examines Public Opinion on the Migrant Caravan

Polling Report Reveals Division AmongstPolling Report Reveals Division AmongstAmericans on Immigration Policy


 

Migrant Caravan 1Most Americans say that the caravan of migrants seeking asylum at the nation’s southern border poses at least a minor threat to the country, according to a recent poll published by the University’s Polling Institute on Nov. 19.

The same report found that 70 percent of Americans say that these migrants should be given the opportunity to enter the country if they meet certain requirements. Half are reluctant to believe that there are terrorists are traveling with the caravan, although 25 percent believe that those claims are true.

According to Patrick Murray, Director of the University’s Polling Institute, people in states that have a large immigrant population, including those that share a border with Mexico, tend to be the least threatened by new immigration due to having more contact with those groups.

Citizens living in states that share a border with Mexico, such as Texas, Arizona and California, were the least likely of regions to see the migrant caravan as a major threat to their safety. Meanwhile, 35 percent of people in the southeastern United States said they saw the migrant caravan as a threat, compared to just 21 percent in border states and 25 percent in the northeastern United States.

The crisis over thousands of Central American migrants trying to cross the border into the United States has yet to end, with border patrol agents using tear gas to disperse protestors allegedly throwing rocks and being arrested for trespassing.

President Donald Trump, in addition to threating to permanently close the United States-Mexico border, tweeted that many of the migrants trying to enter the country are criminals and will not be given asylum, last Monday, Nov. 26. 

“Mexico should move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries. Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it anyway you want, but they are NOT coming into the U.S.A.” he writes. “We will close the Border permanently if need be. Congress, fund the WALL!”

In an interview with Fox News on Nov. 27, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway defended border agent’s decision to use chemical weapons again those at the border. Conway accused the mainstream media of wrongly portraying migrants as mainly made up of women and children, claiming that most asylum seekers were violent men who were a danger to others living near the border. 

“It’s difficult to demonize a group that is such a large part of the fabric of your own community,” said Murray, noting that 20 percent of New Jersey residents were born in another country.

Politically, the recent poll found that 54 percent of Republicans see the migrant caravan as a major threat, while 43 percent believe that the migrants should be allowed to enter the United States. This is compared to just 11 percent of Democrats and 28 percent of Independents seeing migrants as a major threat, with 89 percent and 72 percent, respectively, supporting the migrants’ entry into the United States. 

Overall, however, 70 percent of Americans polled believed the migrants should be given the opportunity to enter the country if they meet certain requirements, such as showing they were persecuted in their home countries and did not have a criminal record.

Migrant Caravan 2“Most of the public express some level of concern about the approaching caravan, some of which may be due to unsubstantiated claims that the group includes terrorists,” Murray said. “At the same time, though, most Americans feel that each migrant should be given the opportunity to state their case for entering the United States.”

Ken Mitchell, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Political Science and Sociology and an associate professor of political science, suggested that Trump’s public reaction to the migrant caravan could be an attempt to achieve political convenience by sparking outrage about the issue of immigration, rather than working with a divided Congress for solutions on a problem that may not necessarily be as severe as presented.

“There are no ISIS people in the caravan, as the President was talking about,” Mitchell said. “Illegal border crossing from Mexico, according to data from our government, are at an 18-year low.”

Mitchell also expects any controversy Trump is causing over the migrant caravan to die down, with the intensity from the midterm elections having ended and Americans returning to more normal lives. In fact, Mitchell said, the issue of immigration could be normalized because Trump is regularly talking about it. He compared it to climate change, another major issue with new developments that he says is not attracting much attention because it is talked about frequently.

“The migrant caravan is something the President is very interested in,” Mitchell said. “I wonder if this is something the American people will be that interested in over the next two years.”

Edward Mullane, a junior communication student, said he has not heard much about the migrant caravan, with social media being his main source of news. As for Trump’s tweets, he said he has not checked the president’s Twitter account over the last few weeks and that his words do not impact his opinion on immigration.

“I’ve heard a bit about it on social media,” Mullane said. “I believe every migrant should have the chance to experience the American dream,” he said.

PHOTOS TAKEN from Vox.com/John Moore/Getty Images

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