Huddled masses still welcome

November 24, 2014, 3:15 PM GMT+0

Most Americans think that the country should live up its the historic promise to be a refuge for the world's poor and disenfranchised

In 1883 American poet Emma Lazarus wrote 'A New Colossus' to raise funds for the erection of the Statue of Liberty. The poem, which is engraved on the bottom of the Statue of Liberty, came to symbolize the United States' commitment to free movement at a time when millions of impoverished people from Europe and the wider world were flowing through Ellis Island.

Research conducted by YouGov shows that when presented with the most famous section of 'A New Colossus', Americans tend to recognize its message when looking at American society. 78% say that the US did once serve as a refuge for the 'huddled masses yearning to breathe free' in the past. 54% also say that the United States should serve as such a refuge for the poor and homeless of the world in the years to come.

When asked whether the idea of the US as refuge for the world's disenfranchised and dispossessed actually applies now, slightly less than half (47%) say that it does. 36% say outright that the message of 'A New Colossus' does not apply to the US now, with Republicans (39%) and people in the Northeast (41%) being the most likely to say that it does not.

The open borders of Emma Lazarus' era may be a faraway memory, but the United States is still a global magnet for immigrants and refugees. The US is one of the only countries with a sizeable program to resettle refugees currently living in dire conditions as refugees abroad. In 2010 the United States provided a home to three-quarters of all the refugees resettled around the world, and since 1975 well over three million refugees have been resettled in the United States.

When Americans are asked whether they approve of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, which allows refugees to apply for refugee status abroad and not only once they arrive in the United States, 59% of Americans say that they approve while 21% disapprove. Democrats (72%) are the most likely to support the program, but majorities of Republicans (55%) and independents (52%) also approve of USRAP.

Opinion is more divided on whether or not resettled refugees should receive aid from the government. 46% support giving refugees medical and cash assistance when they first arrive, while 54% oppose it. Only 19% think that the US should pay for the travel, as is currently the case, while 58% say that the refugee should pay for their flight to the United States.

Full poll results can be found here.