Fall 2015 Articles, Flash Polls, Politics

Syrian Refugees to NC? Americans say ‘No’; State Students say ‘Yes’

Migrants are welcomed as they arrive at the main railway station in Dortmund, Germany on September 6, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Ina Fassbender *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-EUROPE-REFUGEES, originally transmitted on September 9, 2015.
Migrants are welcomed as they arrive at the main railway station in Dortmund, Germany on September 6, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

Following the tragic terror attacks in Paris, France on November 13, a debate has been sparked over whether or not the U.S. should allow more Syrian refugees. President Obama has proposed accepting 10,000 new refugees over the next year. Obama took to Twitter last week to suggest that taking in the most vulnerable is the American thing to do – “Slamming the door in the face of refugees would betray our deepest values. That’s not who we are. And it’s not what we’re going to do.”

The number of 10,000 is hardly a dent in the refugee crisis. Europe has taken in hundreds of thousands in recent years, and France announced it will accept 30,000 new refugees less than a week after they were violently attacked by ISIS.  Despite the Paris attackers being neither Syrian nor refugees, the anti-refugee rhetoric has been ratcheted up in recent days. Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush have said that refugees should be screened based on religion, and we should consider accepting Christian Syrian refugees. Donald Trump went a scary step further. The leading Republican presidential nominee has advocated for the closure of some mosques, and has been open to the idea of making Muslims wear a ‘special ID.’

Policy wise, the backlash to Syrian refugees coming to America has garnered some bipartisan consensus. The House of Representatives passed a delay on Syrian refugees by requiring added security measures, with many Democrats joining the Republican-led House. 31 governors have asked the Obama administration to not send any refugees to their state – nearly all these states have Republican governors.

Here in North Carolina, Republican Governor Pat McCrory is among those who have called for a halt on Syrian refugees. Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is challenging McCrory for Governor in 2016, also announced last week that he was in support of the added security measures and delay of Syrian refugees. Here is an updated summary of where the leading Democratic and Republican candidates stand on admitting Syrian refugees.

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Source: The Vox

Americans Public vs. State Students

In our most recent Pack Poll, students were asked one of two questions on whether or not Syrian refugees should be accepted into the U.S.

The first version was: “What is your attitude about allowing Syrian refugees to come into North Carolina?” This question received slightly less support overall among State students. 29% of students said “we should encourage them [Syrian refugees] to come, even if we have to raise our immigration quotas.” Another 25% feel that “we should allow them [Syrian refugees] to come, but not raise our immigration quotas.” Just 29% of students said “with conditions as they are, we should try to keep them [Syrian refugees] out.” All in all, 54% of State students approve of Syrian refugees being relocated in North Carolina. Surprisingly, nearly one-fifth of students (16%) say they have no opinion on the subject.

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The second version mentioned both NC Governor Pat McCrory and President Obama: “Republican Governor Pat McCrory is asking the Obama administration to cease sending refugees from Syria to North Carolina.   What is your attitude about allowing Syrian refugees to come into North Carolina?” 32% of students who were asked this version believe “we should encourage them [Syrian refugees] to come, even if we have to raise our immigration quotas.” Nearly a quarter (24%) said that “we should allow them [Syrian refugees] to come, but not raise our immigration quotas.” Opposition was slightly higher when McCrory and Obama were cited. One-third of students (33%) feel that “with conditions as they are, we should try to keep them [Syrian refugees] out.”

When the North Carolina Governor and the President were mentioned, students were more likely to express an opinion on the issue. Now, just 10% said they had no opinion on whether or not North Carolina should accept Syrian refugees, halving the number of those lacking an opinion. In this version, 57% of students were in support of accepting Syrian refugees in North Carolina. Opposition and support both rose in this version – taking from the no opinion option. This is perhaps because mentioning Governor McCrory or President Obama allowed partisans otherwise not paying attention to pick a side in the debate.

State students differ with the American public on the refugee topic. 53% of Americans oppose accepting Syrian refugees into the U.S., according to a recent poll conducted by Bloomberg. Gallup finds even greater opposition (60% disapproving, 37 approving). There are several theories as to why State students would be more accepting of refugees. One could be as simple as question wording. The poll conducted by Bloomberg asked “Which of the following do you think is the best approach for the U.S. to take with the refugees fleeing the Civil War from Syria?” As we’ve mentioned before, different question wording can lead respondents to choose very different answers.

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An alternative explanation could be that State students are typically more liberal than Americans on immigration policy. By that analysis, students would be more willing to welcome Syrian refugees into North Carolina.

Anti-refugee Sentiments aren’t new

Historically speaking, we have seen similar patterns of anti-refugee sentiment before. Even before World War II, Jewish refugees were seeking asylum as a result of the brutal atrocities being committed throughout Europe.

In 1938, Fortune magazine specifically asked, “What is your attitude towards allowing German, Austrian & other political refugees to come into the United States?” The answer options were the same as those conducted in the Pack Poll survey of students. The far majority of respondents opted for not allowing refugees – 67% said “with conditions as they are, we should try to keep them out.” Several justifications could be made as to why anti-refugee sentiment was so high. For one, polling was not nearly as scientific in 1938 as it is in 2015. It’s possible that the sample was biased. In addition, the significance of the atrocities in Europe may not have been fully recognized at the time by American citizens. News was obviously not as accessible as it is today. Surprisingly, just 10% chose the no opinion option in 1938, almost identical to our polling of State students today (13%).

Overall, State students are much more likely to be supportive of Syrian refugees entering the U.S. than the American public. Although strong anti-refugee rhetoric has occurred in the news media, a majority of students (55%) still accept new Syrian refugees relocating in North Carolina.

Methodology

The survey took place over the internet Nov 18-19, 2015.  We drew a random sample of 3,500 undergraduate students, and supplemented that with a random sample of 538 additional black students. We over-sampled black students to make our comparisons with white students’  answers more reliable.  Thus, 4,038 State students were invited to take the survey, and 1038 completed it, resulting in a 26% response rate.

Although self-ideintifed black students are 7% of the undergraduate student body, they were 21% of our sample.  When we describe what a representative sample of what all State students think, we apply a post-stratification weight to adjust for imbalance of respondents’ race. For the sample as a whole, the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.98%.  The sampling error is larger for estimates of sub-groups’ opinions, or when we split the sample to ask slightly different version of a question.

In addition to sampling error, other forms of error occur in surveys, such as confusion about question wording or the order of questions, but these are not precisely quantifiable. We do not apply post-stratification sample weights to adjust for possible demographic imbalances in our sample because our measured demographics closely approximate the known student parameters for age, year in school, and gender. Weighting the data would be unlikely to change the reported results by more than 1-2% percentage points for any question results.

Click here to see the full set of results: Toplines Nov Race Poll

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