Poll: Most Americans believe immigrants take jobs citizens don't want

Poll: Most Americans believe immigrants take jobs citizens don't want

An overwhelming majority of Americans believe that immigrants, particularly undocumented ones, take jobs that are unappealing to U.S. citizens, according to nationwide poll released Wednesday.

The Pew Research Center found that 77 percent of respondents said undocumented immigrants take work that Americans don't want, while 64 percent said the same thing of legal immigrants.

The belief that immigrants take unwanted jobs was especially strong among Hispanic respondents: 88 percent said undocumented immigrants take work passed up by citizens, and 74 percent said the same of legal immigrants.

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U.S.-born Hispanics were slightly less inclined to agree: 82 percent said undocumented immigrants take unappealing jobs, while 68 percent said the same of foreign-born workers with legal immigration status.

The idea that immigrants take unwanted jobs was especially common among foreign-born Hispanics, with 94 percent saying undocumented immigrants were employed in undesirable positions. Eighty-one percent said the same of legal immigrants.

White and black Americans had similar takes: 71 percent of black respondents said undocumented immigrants take jobs Americans don't want, while 75 percent of white respondents agreed. Sixty-two percent of both black and white respondents said legal immigrants are likely to take jobs Americans don't want.

The survey revealed political divisions. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to think immigrants take jobs Americans don't want.

Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning respondents, 87 percent believe undocumented immigrants take undesirable jobs, and 72 percent said the same of legal immigrants.

Republicans were less likely to agree 66 percent believe undocumented immigrants take jobs Americans don't want, and 54 percent believe legal immigrants take those jobs.

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The survey comes as the immigration debate has been upended by the economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, raising similar questions about immigrant labor during high unemployment and the need for immigrant labor to sustain the food supply.

According to Pew, 23 percent of all food-related jobs are held by immigrants, and 9 percent of those jobs are held by undocumented immigrants.

Those rates are higher in food production 30 percent of all jobs held by immigrants, 15 percent by undocumented immigrants and processing, where 29 percent of jobs held by immigrants and 12 percent by undocumented immigrants.

Pew's surveys are conducted using the organization's American Trends Panel, a random sampling of 10,957 U.S. adults weighted to accurately represent categories like gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation and education.