Survey: Workers warm to migrants
But Americans see outsourcing and imports as threats
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.