A record number of Americans favor allowing more foreigners to enter and live in the United States each year. Nearly a quarter of Americans (23 percent) favor “increased immigration,” according to the most recent Gallup poll. As importantly, nearly two-thirds (66 percent) oppose decreasing immigration, also a record. Last year saw the lowest support for decreasing immigration at any point since Gallup began asking the question.
The trends show Americans are more willing than ever to engage with the world. To be clear, most Americans—as I’m sure many would readily admit—do not comprehend the absolute or relative scale of immigration. The poll mainly reflects the fact that Americans feel more welcoming to immigrants than ever. In fact, 72 percent of respondents thought of immigration as a “good thing for this country today,” which is 10 percent higher than in 2001.
Gallup has polled Americans on their views on immigration since the 1960s in which just 7 percent of Americans sought to increase immigration. Even in 1993, a full two-thirds of Americans wanted to decrease legal immigration with those favoring higher numbers still at 6 percent. But then, the world changed. Free trade united Mexico and the United States. Demand for high tech workers went through the roof. And most importantly, America witnessed a surge of arrivals through both legal and illegal channels.
Immigrants are often said to result in less economic freedom. Despite the fact that there is no evidence for that, immigrants seem to have changed Americans’ attitudes toward freedom in at least this one area. By definition, free markets must transcend borders, and happily, immigrants appear to be increasing Americans willingness to endorse that principle.