Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science

Document Type



The purpose of this paper is to explore the determinants of Americans’ attitudes toward immigration. I develop a measure of general support for immigration based on individuals’ responses to four immigration items: (1) support for increases in (legal) immigration; (2) feeling thermometer scores for illegal immigrants; (3) support for spending on border security to prevent illegal immigration; and (4) having “controlling illegal immigration” as a foreign policy goal. These items load on a single factor and permit us to generate a global pro-immigration scale that reflects Americans’ general views toward immigration. Further, I develop a comprehensive model of immigration attitudes that includes eight clusters of independent variables: (1) symbolic politics attitudes; (2) economic self interest; (3) demographic attributes; (4) feelings toward Hispanics and Asians, which are two groups commonly associated with immigration; (5) media effects; (6) values, including Americanism, moral traditionalism, egalitarianism, and views about important foreign policy goals; (7) religion effects; and (8) state racial, ethnic, and economic context. I find that Americans’ attitudes toward immigration are driven primarily by demographic attributes, feelings toward Hispanics and Asians, Americanism and other relevant values and views regarding foreign policy goals. Surprisingly, economic self interest plays almost no role in shaping immigration attitudes. Symbolic politics attitudes (such as political ideology and partisan identification) do not have a significant effect on support for immigration in the main model, yet the path model indicates that political ideology has a strong indirect and direct effect on immigration attitudes. Moreover, I find large differences in coefficients for Latino and Asian variables, signifying that further research should be conducted to explore why Americans view Asians and Hispanics differently.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

James C. Garand