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Weekly Chart: Public Opinion on Immigration in the Americas

November 19, 2015

While 53% of Mexico & CentAm backs less immigration, 48% of SouthAm says boost or maintain levels.
Negative views of the economy = negative views of immigration. We highlight LatAm stats from an @IOM_news report.
Brazil would mostly like immigration levels to stay the same or grow. Ecuador—not so much.

Migration stands as major global issue, from the influx of Syrian refugees into Europe, to an upswing in Cubans making their way to the United States, to immigration policy as a hot-button issue in U.S. presidential debates.

Setting aside what politicians have to say, where does public opinion stand on the matter? From 2012 to 2014, Gallup asked 183,000 people in 140 countries whether they think immigration levels should increase, stay the same, or decrease. The findings, published in a 2015 International Organization for Migration (IOM) report, show that in most parts of the world people support immigration levels increasing or staying the same.

The same is generally true across the Americas. But the IOM report points out some notable exceptions: in Mexico and across most of Central America, people believe immigration levels should decrease. The opposite is true in South America, excluding Bolivia and Ecuador. In Brazil, Latin America’s most populous country, most people support maintaining (36 percent) or increasing (20 percent) immigration levels.

The IOM report doesn’t explain why specific countries in Latin America fall one way or another, but it does come to some general conclusions on a global level. For one, countries where people have a negative view of their economic situation also have a negative view of immigration. Also, people with higher levels of education tend to have a more positive view of immigration.

In the chart below, we map out public opinion on the topic in the Americas, as well as how the Western Hemisphere compares to the rest of the world.