More than 60 percent of Minnesotans agree that immigration has a positive impact in the United States, according to findings of the St. Cloud State University Survey.
The annual fall statewide survey took a look at Minnesotans’ views on immigration. The topic of immigration is being debated on the national stage as a Texas judge recently blocked President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents executive action.
The action was designed to grant work permits and extend deferred deportations for the undocumented parents of American citizens or lawful permanent residents as well as extend deferrals for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.
The survey asked respondents about their views on the impact of immigration to the state, their views on Mexican and Somali immigrants and their thoughts on pathways to legalization for undocumented immigrants.
Respondents saw the top positive effect of immigration to be cultural diversity, while the top negative effect was the burden immigrants represent to government welfare.
Changing views on immigration
The St. Cloud State University Survey has been surveying Minnesotans’ views about immigration since 2010 when 70 percent responded positively to the question about immigration in Minnesota. That number dropped to 61 percent in the Fall 2014 survey.
Respondents in 2014 also shared their views about immigration from Somalia and Mexico, where a large number of Minnesota’s immigrants are coming from.
Minnesota is the largest receiver of refugees from Somalia in the United States. The number of Somalis in the United States grew rapidly from 2000 to 2009 in many of the largest metropolitan areas of the state. Minnesota also receives a larger Hispanic/Latino population every year.
From 2000 to 2010, the Latino population grew more than 5 percent, more than doubling in some communities.
The SCSU Survey found that both immigrant groups have a high percentage of support in Minnesota.
Sixty-six percent of respondents support Mexican, while 49 percent of respondents support Somali immigration.
Determining the factors that led to the differences in support are beyond the scope of the survey, but immigration status and cultural background may have played a role in how the groups are perceived by Minnesotans, said Monica Garcia-Perez, survey leader and St. Cloud State associate professor of economics.
Pathways to legalization
The SCSU Survey also asked respondents about their views on pathways to legalization for undocumented immigrants. This topic has become relevant in recent months with an executive action by President Obama.
SCSU Survey asked respondents whether immigrants living in the United States illegally and meet certain requirements should have a way to reside in the country legally.
Almost 60 percent of respondents supported finding a way to legalization for immigrants living illegally in the United States.
They were less supportive of the president providing the way. When survey questioners asked if the president should provide a way for undocumented immigrants to stay legally in the country, 40 percent of respondents supported a presidential measure.
Similarly, the Pew Research Center estimated that 46 percent of Americans approve of last year’s presidential executive order toward undocumented immigrants.
Overall, the SCSU Survey showed a different pattern between the questions — the majority support finding a way to legal status, but that support doesn’t translate into support for the president offering, unilaterally, a pathway to legalization.
Each fall the SCSU Survey conducts a survey of adult Minnesotans about their perspectives on relevant political and social issues.
The 34 year-old SCSU Survey is led by an interdisciplinary team of St. Cloud State faculty and student directors who design the survey and analyze results. Students enrolled in related social science classes call respondents. The survey sample came from a statewide random sample of Minnesota adults. Responses were gathered from 551 randomly-selected landline (60 percent of sample) and cellphone users (40 percent of sample) Oct. 13-22 at the St. Cloud State University Survey Lab. The questionnaire consisted of about 40 questions.