Close Close

Public Divided on Whether Migrant Caravan Poses a Threat


Uncertainty on claims of terrorists in caravan

West Long Branch, NJ – A majority of Americans say a caravan of migrants now approaching the nation’s southern border poses at least a minor threat to the country, according to the Monmouth University Poll.  At the same time, 7-in-10 say that these migrants should be given the opportunity to enter the country if they meet certain requirements. Half are disinclined to believe that terrorists are traveling with the caravan, although 1-in-4 seem fairly certain that those claims are true.

Overall, 29% of Americans see the migrant caravan traveling toward our border with Mexico as a major threat to the U.S., 24% see it as a minor threat, and 39% see it as no real threat to the country.  A majority of Republicans (54%) see the caravan as a major threat, but they are joined by only 28% of independents and 11% of Democrats. Regionally, residents of the four states (CA, AZ, NM, TX) that share a border with Mexico are least likely to be worried about the caravan – only 21% see it as a major threat.  Residents of the Southeast (35%), Midwest (33%), and Mountain-Northwest (33%) regions are more likely to view the caravan as a major threat. Views of Northeast residents (25% major threat) are more in line with those living in the border states than elsewhere in the country.

Most Americans (70%) say that these migrants should be given the opportunity to enter the country if they meet certain requirements such as showing they were persecuted in their home countries and not having a criminal record. Another 26%, however, say they should be sent back to their home countries when they reach the border. A majority of Republicans (51%) say the caravan should be turned back, while 43% say these migrants should be given the opportunity to enter. Large majorities of Democrats (89%) and independents (72%), on the other hand, support giving migrants in the caravan a chance to enter the U.S.

“Most of the public express some level of concern about the approaching caravan, some of which may be due to unsubstantiated claims that the group includes terrorists. At the same time, though, most Americans feel that each migrant should be given the opportunity to state their case for entering the United States,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

During the 2018 election campaign, President Donald Trump and others in his administration implied or stated outright that the caravan included a number of foreign terrorists. One-in-four (25%) Americans believe that the caravan does in fact include terrorists and another 13% are not sure but believe this claim is likely to be true. Half, though, say either they do not believe there are terrorists in the caravan (22%) or that such a claim is less likely to be true (28%).

In addition to claims about terrorists traveling with the caravan, some Republican groups aired campaign ads that focused on crimes committed by illegal immigrants. Half of the public (51%) believes that illegal immigrants in the U.S. are not any more or less likely than other residents of the country to commit violent crimes like rape or murder. The remainder are divided – 24% say illegal immigrants are actually less likely to commit such crimes and 21% say they are more likely.  These results have not changed all that much since a 2015 Monmouth University Poll, when 20% said illegal immigrants were less likely to commit violent crimes, 17% said they were more likely, and 59% said they were about as likely as other Americans to commit violent crimes.

Overall, 7-in-10 Americans believe that illegal immigration is either a very serious (49%) or somewhat serious (21%) problem.  Just 15% say it is not too serious and 13% say it is not at all serious.  These results are comparable to prior Monmouth polls that have asked this question over the past three years.

“As these trends show, the emphasis on immigration during the midterm campaign was not about winning over voters. It was about reinforcing opinions that already exist. Few minds were changed by all the campaign rhetoric on this issue, but it certainly helped deepen the nation’s partisan divide,” said Murray.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from November 9 to 12, 2018 with 802 adults in the United States.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.


(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

[Q1-11 and Q21-24 previously released.]

[Q12-20 held for future release.]

25. How serious a problem do you think the issue of illegal immigration is for the United States right now – very, somewhat, not too, or not at all serious?

Very serious49%45%43%45%
Somewhat serious21%25%30%30%
Not too serious15%16%17%15%
Not at all serious13%13%10%9%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%1%2%

26. Do you think illegal immigrants are more likely, less likely, or about as likely as other Americans to commit violent crimes like rape or murder?

More likely21%17%
Less likely24%20%
About as likely51%59%
(VOL) Don’t know4%4%

27. Have you heard about the migrant caravan that is traveling toward the U.S. border with Mexico, or are you not aware of this?

Not aware14%

28. Do you think the migrant caravan poses a major threat, minor threat, or no real threat to the U.S.?

Major threat29%
Minor threat24%
No real threat39%
(VOL) Don’t know7%

29. When these migrants reach the U.S. border should they be stopped and sent back to their home countries or should they be given the opportunity to enter the country if they meet certain requirements, such as showing they were persecuted in their home country and not having a criminal record?

Stopped and sent back26%
Given the opportunity to enter70%
(VOL) Don’t know5%

30. Do you think the caravan does or does not include a number of terrorists among the migrants, or are you not sure? [If NOT SURE: Do you think claims that terrorists are in the caravan are more likely or less likely to be true?]

Does include25%
Not sure, but more likely13%
Does not include22%
Not sure, but less likely28%
(VOL) Don’t know12%

[Q31-42 held for future release.]


The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from November 9 to 12, 2018 with a national random sample of 802 adults age 18 and older, in English. This includes 398 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 404 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone. Telephone numbers were selected through random digit dialing and landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. Final sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information. Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and SSI (RDD sample). For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design).  Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

28% Republican
38% Independent
34% Democrat
49% Male
51% Female
31% 18-34
34% 35-54
36% 55+
64% White
12% Black
16% Hispanic

  8% Asian/Other

68% No degree
32% 4 year degree
44%  <50K
30%  $50 to <100K
26%  $100K+

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and results by key demographic groups.