The Immigration Question

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American attitudes toward immigration are hardening, according to a new Gallup poll. Half of all Americans say immigration should be "decreased" - up 11 points from 39 percent last year. 

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Anti-immigration sentiment is growing across all major political groupings. Some 61 percent of Republicans say they would like to see immigration decreased, up from 46 percent in 2008, compared to 46 percent of Democrats, up from 39 percent; and 44 percent of Independents, up from 37 percent.

Southerners show the greatest anti-immigration sentiment with 54 percent saying they would like to see immigration decreased, followed by easterners (51 percent), midwesterners (48 percent), and westerners (44 percent).

The poll also saw a shift in American attitudes toward whether "immigration is a good or a bad thing for the country" with more than a third (36 percent) saying it is a bad thing.

Gallup notes that this marks "a return to the attitudes that prevailed in the first few years after 9/11."

Immigration in America has gone in great cycles over the past century or two. While immigration has typically fallen during economic crises, the U.S. has prospered from its relative openness to global talent. America saw an influx of leading scientists, entrepreneurs, artists, and musicians during the Great Depression which helped bolster its position at the frontiers of science, technology, entrepreneurship, and the arts during the long post-war boom.

Economic crises are transformative periods when talent flows can be reset and countries and regions rise and decline. The future belongs to those countries and regions that can attract the best and brightest across the entire world.

Growing anti-immigrant sentiment, should it continue, is bad news for American technology, entrepreneurship, and the economy in general. Let's hope it turns around.

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Richard Florida is Senior Editor at The Atlantic and Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto. See his most recent writing at The Atlantic Cities. More

Florida is author of The Rise of the Creative Class, Who's Your City?, and The Great Reset. He is founder of the Creative Class Group.

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