Poll shows majority of Americans see an 'invasion' at the southern border A new NPR/Ipsos poll shows that half of Americans say there's an "invasion" at the southern border. And that false and misleading claims about migrants are taking hold, particularly with Republicans.

A majority of Americans see an 'invasion' at the southern border, NPR poll finds

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A new survey illuminates a political reality as the fall elections approach.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

That survey is a new NPR/Ipsos poll. It finds most people endorse negative views of immigration. Many say they agree with descriptions of immigrants that are false or misleading, and support for immigrants overall has declined.

INSKEEP: NPR's Joel Rose has been looking at the findings. Joel, good morning.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What do you see in that survey?

ROSE: Well, one of the things that really stands out is that about half of Americans say the U.S. is experiencing an invasion at the southern border.

INSKEEP: Completely or somewhat, they agree with the idea of invasion. I guess we should just pause to say, by the dictionary definition, that's not true. An invasion would be moving in with an armed force. That is obviously not happening. But you're saying that most Americans, when asked in this survey, say that they think it's really true or kind of true that there's an invasion.

ROSE: Exactly, Steve. Yeah. Half of Americans say it is either completely or somewhat true that the U.S. is experiencing an invasion, and it's driven largely by Republicans. Three out of four agreed with that framing, including Michael Cisternino. He's a poll respondent from Nevada.

MICHAEL CISTERNINO: The people that are coming in from different countries, I think too many of them are being let in haphazardly. We are not actually screening enough people to make it safe for the rest of the country.

ROSE: But not everyone agrees that invasion is the right way to describe what's happening at the border. Here's Neel-Gopal Sharma. He's a poll respondent and a Democrat from North Carolina.

NEEL-GOPAL SHARMA: A lot of immigrants are coming here for safety, and a lot of them are coming here for a chance, I guess. Unfortunately, I feel like the rhetoric has just been that, like, there is this large, like, xenophobic kind of talk that's being thrown around.

ROSE: I should say that Democrats and immigrant advocates say this invasion rhetoric is way off base because nearly all border crossers are unarmed. Most are fleeing from violence and poverty in their home countries. And advocates say this rhetoric is potentially dangerous because it could make immigrants a target for violence.

INSKEEP: What else is in this survey, in people's beliefs, that you could describe as false or misleading?

ROSE: Well, we found that large numbers of Americans hold, you know, a wide variety of misconceptions about immigrants, greatly exaggerating their role in smuggling illegal drugs into the U.S., for example - also, how likely immigrants are to use public benefits or to commit crimes. And we found that Republicans are more likely to hold these negative views of immigrants. Mallory Newall is a vice president at Ipsos, which conducted this poll.

MALLORY NEWALL: These statements of false or misleading or incomplete information are definitely gaining more traction among Republicans.

ROSE: Let's take the illegal drug fentanyl as an example. It's true that overdose deaths from fentanyl are up and that a lot of fentanyl is smuggled across the southern border. But the vast majority of that fentanyl is smuggled through official ports of entry. It's not brought in by migrants who are arrested crossing the border between those ports, who often are just turning themselves in to seek asylum. However, 6 out of 10 Republicans in our poll said, incorrectly, that, quote, "most of the fentanyl entering the U.S. is smuggled in by migrants."

INSKEEP: So the difference between anecdotal information and statistical information there. Given all of these misconceptions, what has happened to the overall view of immigration?

ROSE: Well, this is one of the most striking things in the poll for me. When we polled Americans on immigration back in 2018, 3 out of 4 respondents agreed that, quote, "immigrants are an important part of our American identity." Today, that number has fallen sharply down to just 56%.

INSKEEP: Joel, thanks so much.

ROSE: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Joel Rose.

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