Did 9/11 make Americans think twice about immigration? The short answer is no.
The General Social Survey asked 1,140 Americans in 1996 if immigration should be: 1) increased a lot; 2) increased a little; 3) should remain the same; 4) decreased a little; or 5) decreased a lot. Here are the results:
Attitude toward immigration, 1996--percent distribution
Should be increased a lot 2.9
Increased a little 5.9
Remain the same 27.2
Reduced a little 29.6
Reduced a lot 34.6
In 2006, 1,936 people were asked the same question, and I've listed the numbers once again below:
Attitude toward immigration, 2006--percent distribution
Should be increased a lot 3.9
Increased a little 8.7
Remain the same 34.8
Reduced a little 24.0
Reduced a lot 28.6
There is a very clear shift toward either maintaining current levels of immigration or increasing them. The percent wanting a reduction--either a little or a lot--fell by almost 12 points. Fortunately, a majority still want slower immigration, but the shift is not good news for restrictionists like myself.
But 9/11 affected some folks more than others. Jews were hit particularly hard since many live or have relatives in New York, and the terrorists and many of their immigrant co-religionists are anti-Semitic. Plus, Jews have been so reflexively pro-immigration, the ice cold splash of 9/11 might have made them re-think the issue.
So here are the numbers for American Jews (I've combined 2006 and the other year available--2004--to maximize N):
Jewish attitudes toward immigration, 1996--percent distribution
Should be increased a lot 0.0
Increased a little 23.1
Remain the same 30.8
Reduced a little 23.1
Reduced a lot 23.1
N = 26
Jewish attitudes toward immigration, 2004 and 2006 combined--percent distribution
Should be increased a lot 5.3
Increased a little 11.8
Remain the same 35.5
Reduced a little 27.6
Reduced a lot 19.7
N = 76
We can't make any strong conclusions since samples are small--perhaps the safe thing to say is that Jews evidently have not changed their views in the post-9/11 environment. On the other hand, these data indicate that almost half of Jews would like to see a reduction in immigration--a number not much lower than for all Americans.
I found in a previous analysis that 90% or more of Jewish Americans are pro-immigration, but I was using the generic question, "Is immigration good for America?" But when you pin folks down and ask them if they want more or less, Jews like everyone else are more likely to say less. So it seems that some of the Jewish enthusiasm for immigration is theoretical.
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