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West Virginians express a wary view of immigration

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia is one of two states with a population decline in the last decade, but the residents who remain tend to be against immigration.

That position is reflected in the MetroNews Dominion Post West Virginia Poll.

Sixty-two percent of those who responded said “a growing number of newcomers from other countries threatens traditional American customs and values.”

Thirty-eight percent said “the growing number of newcomers from other countries strengthens American society.”

Similar views are expressed in another West Virginia Poll question.

In that question, 61 percent said “immigrants today are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and healthcare.”

Just 39 percent said “immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents.”

Those numbers roughly echo West Virginia’s 60 percent support for President Trump, who has advocated a wall on the border with Mexico and greater restrictions on immigration from some Middle Eastern countries.

Rex Repass

“There is some correlation between Trump supporters, but also some age and other demographic characteristics,” said professional pollster Rex Repass, the author of the West Virginia Poll.

He said younger and higher educated respondents tended to view immigration differently.

“If you look at younger people, 18-34, significantly fewer believe that. Young people are much less likely to believe newcomers from other countries affect traditional American customs and values,” Repass said.

“Also, there’s a correlation with education. As education increases to the college or post-graduate level, they are much less likely to agree with that point of view. Higher educated voters are more likely to believe the influx of incomers from other countries strengthens American society.”

The West Virginia Poll surveyed 404 respondents from all 55 counties. The survey was conducted between Aug.16-26. The confidence interval is +/- 4.9 percentage points.

West Virginia hardly has any immigration.

The American Immigration Council says almost 2 percent of West Virginia residents are immigrants. An additional 2 percent are native-born U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant.

More than half of West Virginia’s immigrants are naturalized. Undocumented immigrants represent 0.2 percent of the total state population.

Nearly half of the adult immigrants in West Virginia have a college degree or more education.

Repass noted that West Virginia’s coalfields have been an attractive destination for immigrants seeking work over the state’s history. But, he said, some of the same wariness existed then, too.

“This is not new to America. If you look at late 19th Century and early 20th Century America you did not have public opinion polls but you did have points of view that were negative bias against immigrant populations that went on to help build a very strong 20th century in the United States.

“We’re experiencing that today, but historically some of the same biases existed a hundred years ago.”

He added, “the assimilation of immigrant populations over time has been one of the country’s strengths, an important part of the country’s culture and strengths.”

MORE: West Virginians may be taking a more isolationist view of world affairs

WV Poll 9 24 Release (Text)

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