Semester of Graduation

Spring 2021


Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work

Document Type



Division of attitudes towards immigration policy is more polarized than ever (Public Religion Research Institute, 2018). Historically, restrictive attitudes towards immigration policies have been highest in times of rising nationalist ideals and economic vulnerability (Jaret, 1999; Ngai, 2004). Primarily a federal responsibility, immigration enforcement was decentralized and that power shared with individual states (Pantoja, 2006), leading to policy disparities among states (Butz & Kehrberg, 2019; Gulasekaram et al., 2015; Johnson, 2019). Studies focusing on the relationship between state economic context and immigration policies, found that states that are more economically vulnerable had higher numbers of restrictive immigration policies (Ybarra et al., 2016). While some point to economic factors, others have found that political ideology and political party alignment are more influential (Brooks et al., 2016; Natter et al., 2020).

This study explored the relationship between economic context and attitudes towards immigration policies. I found a significant difference in attitudes towards immigration policies by political party identification. Democrat had the lowest median score (12.583) meaning they held more welcoming attitudes, Independent had the next lowest (16.2732), and Republican had the highest score (21.3464) However, I found no significant relationship (-0.032; p=0.05) between state-level economic context and individual attitudes towards immigration policies or state-level economic context and state average attitudes towards immigration policies (-0.003; p=0.05), or individual income levels (p=0.963) and employment levels (p=0.095).

The evidence of a significant relationship between attitudes towards immigration policy political party affiliation has implications for policy, namely the need for bipartisan support and highlighting ways that immigration reform benefits all parties. For social work practice implications of this study point toward need for education and transparency about benefits of immigration to clients and combatting misinformation that exists surrounding the subject. Exploring how political party affiliation and economic factors interact to shape attitudes towards immigration policies, and how this in turn affect the development of policy legislation will help to understand the overall relationship.

Committee Chair

Scott, Jennifer

Included in

Social Work Commons