Home > Press Releases > No State Shows Majority Support for Deporting Immigrants Living in U.S. Illegally
No State Shows Majority Support for Deporting Immigrants Living in U.S. Illegally

Landmark survey of roughly 40,000 interviews reveals most Americans continue to favor a path to citizenship for such immigrants

WASHINGTON—No state in the country shows majority support for deporting immigrants living in the country illegally, according to an extensive 50-state survey released today—revealing that the heated rhetoric surrounding illegal immigration during the 2016 presidential election had little effect on overall attitudes.

A majority of residents in every state—including states that strongly supported Donald Trump in the 2016 election—favor allowing immigrants living in the country illegally to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements. There is much lower support for permanent legal residency or deportation. The survey also finds most Americans believe immigrants face a lot of discrimination in the country today, though views diverge dramatically along partisan lines.

The landmark survey was conducted by the nonpartisan PRRI as part of its 2016 American Values Atlas (AVA). The survey, based on approximately 40,000 interviews spanning all 50 states, explores the public’s attitudes on immigration reform and perceptions of discrimination against immigrants and three other minority groups. Additionally, the survey measures attitudes on same-sex marriage and small business service refusals to gay and lesbian people on religious grounds. Read the entire report here: https://www.prri.org/research/americans-views-discrimination-immigrants-blacks-lgbt-sex-marriage-immigration-reform/

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Americans say the immigration system should allow immigrants currently residing in the U.S. illegally to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements. Fifteen percent prefer allowing such immigrants to become permanent legal residents, while a similar number (16 percent) prefer identifying and deporting them. Views on immigration reform have remained largely unchanged since 2013.

“Lost amid the current rhetoric surrounding immigration reform is one fact: Very few Americans prefer deporting the 11 million immigrants currently living in the country illegally,” says PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones. “Even majorities of Republicans and those living in the reddest states favor allowing these immigrants a chance to become citizens, provided they meet certain requirements.”

Majorities of both Democrats (75 percent) and Republicans (55 percent) favor a path to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally. Less than one in five Democrats (15 percent) and Republicans (13 percent) support granting such immigrants permanent legal residency. Notably, Republicans are more than three times as likely as Democrats to say immigrants residing in the U.S. illegally should be identified and deported (28 percent vs. 8 percent, respectively).

Even among residents in largely conservative states, most prefer providing a path to citizenship for immigrants living in the United States illegally. States exhibiting the lowest support tend to be clustered in the South and Midwest, though even those states show majority support. Nearly six in ten (57 percent) residents of Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, and West Virginia favor a policy offering citizenship. Even in Wyoming, the state with the lowest support for a path to citizenship, a majority (55 percent) support such a policy. Only about one in three (32 percent) Wyoming residents favor a policy of deportation.

More than six in ten (63 percent) Americans say immigrants face a lot of discrimination in the U.S. today, while one-third (33 percent) disagree. This view crosses racial and ethnic lines. A majority of Hispanics (80 percent), blacks (74 percent), Asian-Pacific Islanders (59 percent), and whites (57 percent) believe immigrants contend with a lot of discrimination in the country today.

However, there are stark partisan divisions on perceptions of discrimination against immigrants. Democrats are roughly twice as likely as Republicans to say immigrants contend with a great deal of discrimination in the United States today (78 percent vs. 41 percent, respectively).

In addition to the report, results from the AVA are available via an interactive online map, allowing users to explore religious, political, and demographic attributes, along with attitudes on key issues, for all 50 states, four U.S. Census regions, and 30 major metropolitan areas. Explore the AVA here: http://ava.prri.org/

Because of this survey’s large sample size, data exists for a number of smaller groups that are not typically available with traditional surveys. The topline questionnaire, full methodology, and additional findings and analysis can be found here: https://www.prri.org/research/americans-views-discrimination-immigrants-blacks-lgbt-sex-marriage-immigration-reform/


The 2016 American Values Atlas (AVA) is a project of PRRI. Results for questions on specific issues (e.g. immigration and LGBT issues) are based on a subset of 40,509 telephone interviews (including 24,266 cell phone interviews) conducted between May 18, 2016 and January 10, 2017. Results for all demographic, religious affiliation, and political affiliation questions were based on 101,438 bilingual telephone interviews (including 60,355 cell phone interviews) conducted between January 6, 2016 and January 10, 2017 by professional interviewers under the direction of SSRS. The AVA was made possible by generous grants from The Arcus Foundation, The Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, The Gill Foundation, and The Nathan Cummings Foundation.

PRRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization specializing in research at the intersection of religion, values, and public life.