Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

How Americans View the Situation at the U.S.-Mexico Border, Its Causes and Consequences

2. What Americans say is causing a migration surge at the U.S.-Mexico border

Americans see several factors as reasons why there are so many people seeking to migrate to the United States at the southwestern border.

Large bipartisan majorities point to economic factors as major reasons for the surge, with 75% of Americans saying bad economic conditions in migrants’ home countries are a major reason, and 71% saying the same about good economic opportunities in the U.S.

Chart shows Economic factors widely seen as reasons why there are many migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border

Smaller majorities also say violence in migrants’ home countries (65%), and migrants’ belief that U.S. policies allow for them to easily stay once they arrive (58%) are major factors. But there are wide partisan differences in views about the importance of these two factors.

Less than half of adults (44%) view greater political freedoms in the U.S. as a major reason for why people are seeking to migrate to the U.S.

Very few Americans say any of these factors is not a reason at all – fewer than two-in-ten say this about any of the five reasons asked about in the survey.

Republican, Democratic views of the reasons for the migration surge

U.S. immigration policy

Chart shows Wide partisan gaps over the role of home country violence, U.S. policy in migrant surge

Roughly three-quarters of Republicans and GOP leaners (76%) point to a belief among migrants that U.S. immigration policies will make it easy to stay in the country as a major reason for the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border. Of the five reasons asked about in this survey, this ranks highest among Republicans.

By contrast, a far smaller share of Democrats (39%) point to this as a major reason for the large number of migrants seeking to enter at the U.S.-Mexico border. It is the lowest-ranked item among Democrats.   

Still, an additional 39% of Democrats say this is a minor reason. Another 21% say it is not a reason (compared with just 7% of Republicans).

Violence in home countries

Nearly eight-in-ten Democrats (79%) say violence in migrants’ home countries is a major reason for the number of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. This is among the top reasons (alongside economic factors) Democrats see for the migration surge.

Republicans are far less likely to see this as a major factor for the surge in migrants, though about half (49%) say that it is.

Economic factors

Large majorities in both parties identify good economic opportunities in the U.S. and bad economic conditions in migrants’ home countries as major reasons for the migrant situation at the border.

Democrats are slightly more likely than Republicans to say each of these are major reasons.

Political freedoms

About four-in-ten Republicans (41%) and nearly half of Democrats (47%) view greater political freedoms in the U.S. as a major reason for why large numbers of people are seeking to migrate to the U.S. at the southwestern border. More than a third in both parties view this as a minor reason.

Conservative Republicans, liberal Democrats diverge on reasons for the migrant surge

Conservative Republicans (81%) overwhelming say that migrants’ beliefs that U.S. policy will make it easy to stay in the country once they arrive is a major reason for the large number of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Chart shows partisans point to different factors for why there is a large influx of migrants at the border with Mexico

A smaller – though still substantial – majority of moderate and liberal Republicans (67%) also see this as a major reason for the buildup of migrants.

But Democrats – particularly liberal Democrats – are not nearly as likely to see the belief that U.S. immigration policy is loose as a factor. Just 29% of liberal Democrats say it is a major reason why migrants are seeking to enter, while another 42% say it is a minor factor. Nearly three-in-ten (28%) say this is not a reason at all.

By comparison, more than eight-in-ten liberal Democrats point to violence in the countries migrants are coming from as a major reason for their migration.

About three-quarters of conservative and moderate Democrats (73%), and roughly six-in-ten moderate and liberal Republicans (58%) also view violence as a major factor behind why migrants are coming to the U.S.

But conservative Republicans are less likely to see this as a significant contributing factor: 44% say it is a major reason why migrants at the southwest border seek to enter the U.S., while another 42% say it is a minor reason.

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