NEW YORK, NY – Sixty-one percent of Americans oppose the Obama administration’s plans to accept up to 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States over the next year, with 40% more specifically saying they strongly oppose the action. By comparison, four in ten (39%) support this plan, with 15% voicing strong support.
• Nearly two-thirds of Independents (65%) and eight in ten Republicans (80%) oppose accepting these refugees onto our shores (with 57% of Republicans opposing it strongly), while six in ten Democrats (59%) support the decision.
• Generationally, strong majorities of Gen X (67%), Baby Boomers (66%), and Matures (63%) oppose the effort; Millennials are more divided, with 52% opposed and 48% in support.
Additionally, nearly six in ten (58%) believe governors should have the right to prevent Syrian refugees from living in their state, a sentiment echoed by nearly eight in ten Republicans (78%), six in ten Independents (61%), and four in ten Democrats (39%).
These are the results of The Harris Poll of 2,016 adults surveyed online between November 19 and 23, 2015.
This is not the first time Americans have voiced opposition to allowing foreign refugees in into the United States in some manner. A 1980 ABC News/Harris Poll found over six in ten Americans (63%) supported then-new restrictions on Cuban immigration. In the 1970’s, other Harris Polls found that nearly six in ten Americans (57%) were against a proposal to allow an additional 15,000 Indochinese refugees fleeing Communism into the United States and a 49% plurality were opposed to (vs. 37% in favor of) allowing 130,000 Vietnamese refugees to come to live in the United States. And just last week, results from a 1938 poll went viral, showing two-thirds of Americans (67%) opposed loosening immigration quotas to allow political refugees from Europe into the country.
In the wake of the attacks in Paris less than two weeks ago, fear may well be a top force driving public sentiment away from accepting these refugees. More than six in ten Americans (63%) agree with a sentiment expressed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in a letter to President Obama: that any Syrian refugee admitted to the U.S. could be connected to terrorism. Additionally, only half (51%) of Americans trust that Syrian refugees will go through a thorough screening process before being allowed to enter the United States.
• Nearly eight in ten Republicans (78%) and two-thirds of Independents (67%) believe any Syrian refugee admitted to the U.S. could have terrorist ties, as do half (50%) of Democrats.
• Turning to the vetting process, seven in ten Democrats (69%) trust that the refugees will go through a thorough screening process, as do nearly half of Independents (48%) and a third of Republicans (34%).
Give me your tired, your poor
A 54% majority of Americans agree that this country was built on the principle of being a place where oppressed people could come to live, and that Syrian refugees should not be an exception; nearly three-fourths of Democrats (73%) agree with this statement, as do half of Independents (49%) and 36% of Republicans.
However, the perception that human rights should be a central feature of our foreign policy has declined. Fifty-six percent of Americans support this statement, an eight point drop from 64% in 2014. Seven in ten Democrats support this point of view, as do a majority of Independents (54%) and 46% of Republicans.
Meanwhile, when asked for their opinions on whether the United States should volunteer to accept more than 10,000 Syrian refugees, a 35% minority (including 56% of Democrats) agrees the U.S. should, while a resounding 65% majority disagrees.
As to the “Christians-only” refugee policy Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush have spoken in favor of, only two in ten Americans (21%) believe the U.S. should only accept refugees from the Middle East if they are Christian.