Priority #14: Immigration

Written by: Christopher Collard

This post continues our blog series on concerns that many Utah voters expressed in our Utah Priorities Project survey that didn’t make the cut for our top ten list.

While immigration did not land on Utah voters’ top ten list of concerns, it has been a top issue (4th place) for Americans during this past election cycle.1 No doubt that its importance in the minds of Americans is related to Donald Trump’s strong position on immigration.

Utah has taken a somewhat different approach on immigration than its neighbor to the south and many other western states. A 2011 Utah law gave unauthorized immigrants a chance to temporarily stay in the country legally after paying a fine, passing a background check, and having lived in the state for two years. However, having not received a waiver from the federal government, the law has never been implemented.

immigration-us-v-utIt is Utah’s softer stance on immigration that has often been offered as one of the reasons Trump doesn’t have the support Utah has offered past Republican presidential nominees. However, some Utah Foundation survey data suggest that Utahns’ opinions on immigration are similar to the nation. Respondents were asked which of two statements comes closer to their own views: “immigrants today are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing, and healthcare” or “immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents.” Overall, Utah voters are similar to all Americans.


The Utah Priorities Project also asked a number of other questions regarding immigration.2 Predictable differences occur between liberals and conservatives. Liberals are more open to immigration in each of the questions in the project. What is interesting is while there are disparate views on unauthorized immigration, a majority in all groups agree that authorized immigrants have positive effects on Utah’s economy and society.

immigration-by-ideologyAs this election cycle continues and with the upcoming presidential debates, it is likely that immigration will receive a lot of attention at the national level. However, many Utahns likely consider this issue set to rest locally with the 2011 legislation and are now primarily concerned with other topics that you can view on the top ten list.

  1. ^ To be very clear, Utah Foundation and Gallup have very different methodologies. It is unclear how comparable these two surveys really are.
  2. ^ Questions included the following:
    1. Thinking about issues facing Utah, please rate how concerned you are about each of the following issues. Use a 1-5 scale with one meaning you are “not at all concerned” and five meaning you are “very concerned.” How concerned are you about immigration? (Those concerned were those who responded with a 4 or 5)
    2. On a scale of one to five where one is strongly disagree and five is strongly agree, how would you rank the following statements? (Those who agreed were those who responded with a 4 or 5)
      1. Unauthorized immigrants have a negative effect on Utah’s economy and society.
      2. Authorized immigrants have a positive effect on Utah’s economy
    3. I’m going to read you some pairs of statements that will help us understand how you feel about a number of things. As I read each pair, tell me whether the FIRST statement or the SECOND statement comes closer to your own views — even if neither is exactly right. The first pair is… Immigrants today are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing, and healthcare, OR immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents
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