How Personal Values and Contact Impact Views on Unauthorized Immigrants

April 30, 2019

WASHINGTON—A new report released today by the American Immigration Council finds that Americans’ attitudes toward unauthorized immigrants are, among other factors, deeply related to their personal values and to the type of contact they have with immigrants in their daily lives.

The report, “The Role of Contact and Values in Public Attitudes Toward Unauthorized Immigrants,” shows that:

  1. The native-born hold more positive views about unauthorized immigrants if they have friendly interactions with immigrants.
  2. Native-born individuals who place a high value on empathy hold more favorable attitudes toward unauthorized immigrants, while those who highly value authority hold less favorable attitudes.

The authors of the report surveyed 1,280 native-born U.S. citizens, assessed their views on unauthorized immigrants, and measured their socio-demographic characteristics, the values they perceive as important, their political beliefs, and their perceptions about a host of social issues. The authors then used statistical techniques to determine how views on unauthorized immigrants are related to these many factors.

The main two findings presented above hold up even after taking into account differences in the respondents’ sociodemographic characteristics; their perceptions about how the U.S. economy and culture are changing; their identification with the Democratic or Republican party; and their perceptions regarding a range of sociopolitical issues.

“This study suggests that by connecting to the personal values that the native-born hold dear, and facilitating friendly interactions between immigrants and the native-born, it may be possible to shift public attitudes toward unauthorized immigrants,” said Diana Orcés, co-author of the report and research analyst at the American Immigration Council.

“Understanding why people hold specific attitudes toward unauthorized immigrants is of great importance for addressing issues related to community cohesion and in ultimately shaping more welcoming communities,” said Guillermo Cantor, director of research at the American Immigration Council.


For more information, contact:
Maria Frausto at the American Immigration Council, [email protected] or 202-507-7526.

Media Contact

Elyssa Pachico
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