While the number of migrants illegally crossing into the United States at the U.S.-Mexico border has declined sharply in recent weeks, Americans continue to give the U.S. government low ratings for its handling of the situation at the border, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
Pew Research Center conducted this study to track Americans’ views of the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border. For this analysis, we surveyed 5,115 U.S. adults from June 5 to 11, 2023. Everyone who took part in this survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.
Just 23% of Americans say the government is doing a good job dealing with the large number of people seeking asylum at the border, while more than three times as many (73%) say it’s doing a bad job.
The new survey also finds:
- Nearly half of Americans (47%) rate illegal immigration as a very big problem in the country, up from 38% last year.
- The public’s views of possible actions to deal with the situation at the border have not changed much in recent years. About half (52%) say it is very important to require people seeking asylum in the U.S. to apply before they travel to the border. And 49% say it is very important to increase staffing and resources for patrolling and policing the border.
How Republicans, Democrats view the government’s handling of the border situation
Americans have expressed negative views of the government’s handling of the border situation for the past few years.
Only 29% gave the government positive ratings in April 2021, during Joe Biden’s first year in office. And in 2019, when Donald Trump was president, just a third said the government was doing a good job at the border.
Both of those surveys asked about the “increased number” of people seeking asylum, while the question in the Center’s latest survey asks about the “large number” of asylum seekers.
Just 35% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents and 11% of Republicans and Republican leaners currently rate the government’s performance positively.
Views of illegal immigration as a national problem
Public perceptions of illegal immigration as a major national problem, which declined somewhat last year, have rebounded to 2021 levels.
Republicans continue to be far more likely than Democrats (70% vs. 25%) to rate illegal immigration as a very big national problem. In both parties, somewhat larger shares now say illegal immigration is a major problem than did so last year.
When asked generally which party they agree with more on immigration policy, more Americans say they agree with policies from the Republican Party (41%) than the Democratic Party (31%). About a quarter (26%) say they don’t agree with either party on this issue. [For more on Americans’ agreements with the parties on issues, see our accompanying report.]
About half of Americans (51%) say they have been at least somewhat closely following news about the number of people seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. Republicans are more likely than Democrats (60% vs. 46%) to say this.
Public priorities for dealing with situation at the U.S.-Mexico border
When asked about some possible government actions the U.S. should consider to address the large number of asylum seekers at the border, about half of Americans (52%) say it is very important for the U.S. to require people to apply for asylum before they travel to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Other priorities include increasing staffing and resources available to patrol and police the border (49% say this is very important); reducing the number of asylum seekers (45%); and providing safe and sanitary conditions for asylum seekers once they arrive (43%).
Fewer Americans say it is very important to make it more difficult for asylum seekers to be granted legal status in the U.S., to boost aid to Central America, or to prevent people from seeking asylum in this country.
Partisan priorities for the U.S.-Mexico border
There are both common ground and disagreement when it comes to partisans’ views on what the U.S. should prioritize to deal with the number of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Large majorities of both Republicans and Democrats agree that several immigration goals are at least somewhat important.
For example, 92% of Republicans and 73% of Democrats say it is very or somewhat important to increase staffing at the border, though far more Republicans view this as very important.
Majorities in both parties also say it is important to require people to apply for asylum before traveling to the border and to reduce the number of asylum seekers.
However, Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to say it is important to increase aid to the Central American countries where many asylum seekers are coming from. And Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to say it is important not to allow people to seek asylum in the United States.