Updated Mar 29, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Distrust of immigrants grows as GOP hammers crime narrative: poll

Aerial view

Aerial view of the U.S.-Mexico border on March 25 in El Paso, Texas. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Increasing numbers of Americans are concerned that immigrants to the U.S. will commit crimes, new polling shows.

Why it matters: The findings point to how increasingly harsh political discourse around immigration, particularly from the GOP, is breaking through to everyday Americans.

By the numbers: The share of Americans who believe there is a "major risk" that immigrants who arrive legally will commit crimes in the U.S. rose to 32% in 2024, according to a new AP-NORC poll out Friday.

  • In 2017, only 19% of Americans believed this group posed a "major risk" when it came to committing crime.
  • While the share of Democrats who believed the same about immigrants who arrive legally shrunk from 16% in 2017 to 10% in 2024, the percentage of Republicans who held the same viewpoint surged from 20% to 41%.
  • Democrats were also more likely than Republicans to see the benefits of immigration, both legal or illegal, such as contributing to economic growth, the poll found.

State of play: The partisan divide over immigration was even starker when it came to illegal immigration.

  • 71% of Republicans believe there is a high risk immigrants will commit crimes in the U.S, compared to 17% of Democrats who said the same.
  • A majority of Republicans, 80%, believe there is a high risk of illegal immigration burdening welfare and safety net programs, while only 32% of Democrats said the same.

Catch up quick: There has been no shortage of high-profile examples of Republicans' invective against immigrants.

  • Last year former President Trump, the GOP frontrunner in 2024, said migrants illegally crossing into the U.S. are "poisoning the blood of our country."
  • Earlier this year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) referred to migrants crossing the border illegally as an "invasion."

The big picture: Generalizations about immigrants committing violent crimes more frequently don't reflect reality.

  • Many studies have shown that immigrants are less likely to commit violent crimes than U.S.-born citizens, per AP.
  • A number of communities across the U.S.-Mexico border saw homicide rates fall in 2022, FBI crime data revealed last year.

The bottom line: Dehumanizing rhetoric about immigrants has worried Latino activists and political leaders that it could contribute to already record-high hate crimes against Latinos.

Go deeper: Anti-immigrant rhetoric sparks fears of more hate crimes against Latinos

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