Immigrants Assimilate into the Political Mainstream

The following is a Cato Study, coathored with Sam Wilson.

Immigrants could shift public policy if their opinions differ from those of other Americans. Our earlier research found that immigrants and native-born Americans have ideological, political, and public policy opinions that differ to a statistically insignificant extent. In this report we further separate immigrant political and policy opinions by citizenship status. Noncitizen immigrants cannot vote but their political opinions are mostly similar to those of natives. However, naturalized citizen-immigrants who can vote have political opinions even closer to those of natives and are near-fully assimilated into the political mainstream.

Download the study here to see full report with tables and graphs.

Immigrants and natives differ more on their opinions about immigration policy than any other issue area, which might explain why so many immigrants who self-identify as Republicans or Independents end up voting for Democratic candidates. On the other issues examined here, naturalized immigrants and natives have mostly similar political, ideological, and policy opinions, although some of these results could be driven by relatively small sample sizes (see Table 2). Nonnaturalized immigrants differ greatly from natives on some of the issues examined here. There are several possible reasons why naturalized immigrants are better politically assimilated. The first is that the curriculum of American history and civics during the naturalization process actually changes their opinions. Another possible explanation is that immigrants who choose to naturalize already share American opinions while immigrants who disagree tend not to naturalize. A third explanation is that immigrants who naturalize have lived in the United States longer than other immigrants, thus giving them more time to politically assimilate. Regardless of the reasons, naturalized immigrants and subsequent generations are politically and ideologically well assimilated.


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