In principle most Americans agree that the United States should provide refuge to people fleeing war, but people take a hard line towards Syrian refugees
Last week the Obama administration announced that the United States would accept another 10,000 refugees fleeing Syria. By the middle of 2015, however, the United States had only accepted fewer than 1,000 Syrian refugees. The virtually unprecedented flow of refugees into Europe has caused a major crisis in the continent as European countries struggle to cope with the hundreds of thousands of people seeking to flee war, and build a better life, in wealthy European countries. Germany, the largest country in Europe, had expected 800,000 refugees in 2015, but the country's Vice Chancellor has said that the figure may top 1,000,000. To stem the flow Germany has re-introduced border checks with Austria, despite the passport-free travel zone which encompasses much of the European Union.
YouGov's latest research shows that, in principle, few Americans (21%) disagree with the idea that the United States should provide refuge to people fleeing war or oppression in their home countries. 52% say that the US should provide refuge, though Democrats (65%) are much more likely than Republicans (39%) to say that the United States should shelter people fleeing war or oppression.
When it comes to Syrian refugees, however, few Americans feel that the United States should take in more of them. Only 26% of the public believe that the United States should take in more than the current 1,000 refugees, while 30% think the U.S. should take in fewer. 19% are happy with the current levels of refugee admission. Nearly half of Republicans (48%) think that the U.S. should take in fewer Syrian refugees, and even Democrats are divided between the 39% who think more Syrians should be sheltered and the 38% who believe that current levels are either acceptable (17%) or too high (21%).
Historically the United States has played a huge role in resettling refugees from crisis zones around the world. Under Presidents Carter and Reagan the United States offered protection to hundreds of thousands of refugees, but after 9/11 it became far more difficult to resettle to the United States.
Americans are divided on whether or not the United States has a special role to play in providing new homes for people seeking to escape poverty or war. 41% say that the U.S. does have a special role while 40% disagree. There is a significant partisan divide, however. While 56% of Democrats say that the U.S. does have a special role to provide a new home to refugees, 53% of Republicans disagree.
Americans and Germans were both asked by YouGov whether the number of refugees they host from all countries, not just Syrians, was too high or whether they could take in more refugees. 21% of Americans said that the US could take in more refugees, compared to 33% of Germans. 45% of Americans say the number of refugees is already too high, compared to 43% of Germans. As of the end of 2014, there were almost the exact same number of refugees and asylum seekers in each country (455,000) even though America's population is four times that of Germany.