Sur­vey: Work­ers warm to mi­grants

But Amer­i­cans see out­sourc­ing and im­ports as threats

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Don Lee

WASH­ING­TON — At a time of ris­ing pop­ulist re­sent­ment over glob­al­iza­tion, Amer­i­cans largely agree that for­eign trade is cost­ing U.S. jobs, but they also hold an in­creas­ingly pos­i­tive view about the value of im­mi­grants to the econ­omy.

In a new study by the Pew Re­search Cen­ter, eight out of 10 adults re­garded in­creased out­sourc­ing of jobs over­seas and the growth of im­ports of for­eign-made goods as harm­ful to U.S. work­ers.

By com­par­i­son, only about half of the peo­ple sur­veyed saw au­to­ma­tion as hurt­ful — even though many economists be­lieve new tech­nolo­gies and the mech­a­niza­tion of work have led to as many job losses as trade im­bal­ance.

The pub­lic’s wide­spread mis­trust of trade has been seized upon by GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign, and it has pushed Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton to re­verse her sup­port for the pend­ing U.S.-led trade deal with other Pa­cific Rim na­tions.

But Amer­i­cans in gen­eral ap­pear less con­vinced about Trump’s tough stance against im­mi­gra­tion, his sig­na­ture is­sue.

Pew’s study, re­leased Thurs­day, found peo­ple in the U.S. have a much more fa­vor­able at­ti­tude about the im­pact of im­mi­grants on the econ­omy than be­fore.

A decade ago, 55 per­cent of all adults sur­veyed by Pew felt that the grow­ing Most adults in the la­bor force feel it will be es­sen­tial for them to de­velop new skills, the Pew study found. num­ber of im­mi­grants work­ing in the U.S. was hurt­ing Amer­i­can work­ers over­all; only 28 per­cent said im­mi­gra­tion helped.

But this year, the view on this is­sue was split: 45 per­cent said the im­pact of for­eign-born work­ers was harm­ful over­all, while 42 per­cent said im­mi­grants were pos­i­tive for U.S. work­ers.

The more-fa­vor­able at­ti­tude to­ward im­mi­gra­tion was seen across the board — with some of the big­gest changes in­volv­ing black work­ers, Democrats and those with less than a high school ed­u­ca­tion.

The one ex­cep­tion? A greater share of Repub­li­cans to­day, some 67 per­cent, saw im­mi­gra­tion as hurt­ing U.S. work­ers, com­pared with 61 per­cent a decade ago.

By com­par­i­son, only 30 per­cent of Democrats in the Pew sur­vey con­sid­ered im­mi­gra­tion harm­ful to work­ers, down from 54 per­cent who held that view in 2006.

The Pew study, which in­cluded a wide range of is­sues about Amer­i­can jobs, did not seek to ex­plain why peo­ple’s views on im­mi­gra­tion may have changed. Pew’s sur­vey did not dis­tin­guish be­tween le­gal and il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

Kim Parker, Pew’s direc­tor of so­cial trends re­search, said soft­en­ing at­ti­tudes to­ward im­mi­grants in the coun­try il­le­gally could be one fac­tor be­hind the change. A sep­a­rate Pew study last Au­gust found that seven out of 10 Amer­i­cans be­lieved im­mi­grants here il­le­gally filled jobs that U.S. cit­i­zens did not want.

Amer­i­can at­ti­tudes to­ward im­mi­gra­tion have tended to shift with the eco­nomic times and peo­ple’s per­cep­tions of their own job security. Re­flect­ing to­day’s low un­em­ploy­ment rate and sharp re­duc­tion in lay­offs in re­cent years, most peo­ple sur­veyed by Pew did not see a big threat to their jobs in the near term: 60 per­cent of em­ployed work­ers said it is not at all likely that they will lose their job or be laid off in the next 12 months.

And while many in the U.S. do not see good jobs avail­able in their com­mu­ni­ties, they are gen­er­ally upbeat about their stan­dard of liv­ing and the prospects for the next gen­er­a­tion.

Among other find­ings in the Pew­study, which sought to un­der­stand how peo­ple are re­spond­ing to the chal­lenges of the shift­ing em­ploy­ment land­scape, a ma­jor­ity of adults in the la­bor force feel it will be es­sen­tial for them to get train­ing and de­velop new skills through­out their work life in or­der to keep up with changes in the work­place.

Al­though the share of adults 25 and older with a bach­e­lor’s de­gree or higher has never been greater — ris­ing to 33 per­cent last year from 17 per­cent in 1980 — only 16 per­cent of those polled by Pew thought a four-year de­gree pre­pared stu­dents “very well” for a good-pay­ing job.

LYNNE SLADKY/AP

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