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Jun. 28, 2007
Media Contact: Tara Laskowski, firstname.lastname@example.org 703-993-8815
FAIRFAX, Va., June 28, 2007—Virginians are deeply divided on immigration policies, according to a recent survey by researchers at George Mason University’s Center for Social Science Research. While many Virginians are reluctant to have the government provide additional services to undocumented immigrants, racial, socio-economic and political factors draw severe lines in the public’s opinion on immigration.
The survey, part of the Mason Project on Immigration, was conducted during a three week period ending June 5, at a time of rising debate and news coverage of immigration policy. Topics covered were extensive and included sensitive issues such as government-sponsored day labor centers, Minutemen-like border patrol groups, crime, unemployment, quality of life and even terrorism.
"Given the difficulty that federal legislation has faced, we need to pay careful attention to perceptions at the state and local level," said sociologist Steven Vallas, director of the center and the study’s designer. "This survey provides a timely portrayal of how the immigration debate has taken shape in Virginia and speaks to how the nation at large is sharply divided on the issue."
Based on interviews with a random sample of 1,072 respondents drawn from around the state, the survey showed that when looking at race, African Americans emerge as the most cautious ethnic group, and often express fear that undocumented immigrants will undermine their positions within the economy and society. Nearly half of all African Americans in the survey (49 percent), compared with only 29 percent of non-Hispanic whites, agreed strongly that undocumented immigration tends "to lower the wages and salaries of American workers."
Political views were also among the strongest determinants of respondents’ attitudes—with 75 percent of the most conservative respondents believing that undocumented immigrants take jobs away from American workers, compared with only 32 percent of those who consider themselves strongly liberal.
Responses were also sharply divided according to region. The survey showed that residents in metropolitan Northern Virginia and Charlottesville hold relatively accommodating views of undocumented immigration, while Virginians living in regions that have faced greater economic hardship in recent years, such as the south-central and Piedmont regions, tend to be more negative in their views.
Other findings include:
"These findings indicate that divisions and debates about immigration are by no means limited to the halls of Congress and legislative bodies," said Vallas. "Communities and social groups hold sharply different positions in relation to immigration, generating a divisive pattern that is not likely to wane anytime soon. Even if federal immigration reforms move through Congress, the fault lines that cut across local counties and municipalities are likely to make themselves felt."
Editor’s note: More information about the survey’s findings, detailed charts and graphs and the methodology of the survey can be found at the center’s web site: cssr.gmu.edu.
About the Center for Social Science Research
The Center for Social Science Research is a multidisciplinary research center that brings together social science theories and methods to conduct state-of-the-art research on some of the most pressing social, behavior, and political problems facing contemporary society. Studies employ a range of quantitative and qualitative research methods including survey research, focus groups, interviews, and analysis based on leading social indicators. Specific areas of research vary widely, ranging from studies on the needs of immigrant and refugee groups to research on youth gangs and family well-being.
About George Mason University
George Mason University, located in the heart of Northern Virginia’s technology corridor near Washington, D.C., is an innovative, entrepreneurial institution with national distinction in a range of academic fields. With strong undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering, information technology, biotechnology and health care, Mason prepares its alumni to succeed in the workforce and meet the needs of the region and the world. Mason professors conduct groundbreaking research in areas such as cancer, climate change, information technology and the biosciences, and Mason’s Center for the Arts brings world-renowned artists, musicians and actors to its stage. Its School of Law is recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top 50 law schools in the United States.