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    An analysis of public opinion toward undocumented immigration.

    Espenshade TJ; Calhoun CA


    After an introduction, a brief review of the history of attitudes toward immigration in the US, and comments on the continuing importance of undocumented migration, this paper reformulates extant research hypotheses from diverse literatures connecting US public opinion to immigration. The hypotheses considered include 1) that immigrants take jobs from citizens, 2) that cultural and ethnic ties to immigrants promote proimmigration attitudes, 3) that education plays a role in shaping attitudes towards immigration, 4) that fears about the economic costs to society of new immigrants engender negative attitudes, and 5) that public opinion arises from a commitment to enduring values about what it means to be an American (the symbolic politics theory). These hypotheses are tested using data from a June 1983 survey of public attitudes toward undocumented immigration conducted in the six urban counties of southern California, the region of the US with the largest number of illegal migrants. These data were submitted to ordered-probit regression analysis of responses to two general questions about the problem and effect of illegal migration. Respondents' attitudes were modeled toward the general implications of undocumented migration as a function of their own demographic and socioeconomic characteristics and their opinions about a series of more specific issues. Explanatory variables were introduced sequentially in groups, and all explanatory variables were also encoded as dummies. The findings were summarized in a table which includes all of the socioeconomic and demographic background variables and in a table illustrating a fully populated model. These data provide only weak support for the labor market competition hypothesis, greater support for cultural affinity, strong associations with educational attainment (more education equals more favorable attitudes), evidence that cost-benefit considerations influence attitudes, and evidence that illegal immigration elicits normative cultural attachments. Respondents over age 35 were also more pessimistic as were females. These findings have important implications for US immigration and immigrant policy and imply that more effort should be devoted to the economic and social integration of migrants who are resident in the US. By raising the level of education in the general public, the US can engender more liberal attitudes towards immigration.
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