“It could be 3 million, it could be 30 million”: Quantitative misperceptions about undocumented immigration and immigration attitudes in the Trump era

Inspired by calls for  immigration attitudes  scholarship using longer time frames (Ceobanu and Escandell 2010; Hainmueller and Hopkins 2014; Hopkins et al. 2019), this study examines the relationship between being misinformed about undocumented immigration in 2015, abstract immigration attitudes, and four specific and timely immigration policy options in 2016.

Project Subject Area                                                                                                                  

  • Immigration 
  • Undocumented migration
  • US demographics

Project Details                                                                                                                           

Recent changes in the sociopolitical US landscape calls for the examination of the level of quantitative misperception about undocumented immigration and its connection with immigration attitudes. Nationally representative survey data are used to analyze whether being misinformed about the proportion of US immigrants that are undocumented in 2015 is linked with abstract immigration attitudes and four immigration policy options in 2016. The results reveal that people who overestimated undocumented immigration—a common misperception—are more likely to report that all immigrants present symbolic threats to the country than are their accurately informed peers. Consistent with the especially high salience of the US–Mexico wall in this period, over estimators also place more importance on building the wall but not on other policy options. These findings have important theoretical and real-world implications, given the current social and political context and spillover effects on Latinx and other racialized communities.

Research Team                                                                                                                           

  • Eileen Diaz McConnell, Author, President’s Professor (School of Transborder Studies) at Arizona State University


Access full paper here