Survey: Partisan split over U.S. taking in refugees

Story highlights

  • A majority of Americans surveyed favor letting in Syrian refugees
  • As long as it's consistent with security screenings

Washington (CNN)More than half of respondents to a new Brookings Institution survey support the U.S. accepting refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries after security screenings. The survey found that 59% of Americans support accepting refugees, while 41% oppose it.

That sentiment, though, includes a partisan divide, with just 38% of Republicans supporting taking in refugees from Syria and the Middle East, compared with 77% of Democrats.
    Nearly half of those who said they did not believe the U.S. should admit more refugees cited terrorism concerns. Forty-one percent said they were concerned about the "economic burden" of admitting more refugees and 9% said they were concerned about having more Muslims -- even peaceful Muslims -- in the United States.
    The Obama administration's refugee policy has been the subject of fierce debate in the wake of last year's terrorist attacks in Paris and the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. Some Republicans, including presumptive nominee Donald Trump, believe that the refugee program leaves the nation vulnerable to terrorism.
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    Just last week, Trump attacked presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's willingness to admit Syrian refugees into the country, and said that "we have to temporarily stop this whole thing with what's going on with refugees. where we don't know where they're coming from."
    He called on Clinton, who has called on President Barack Obama to take in 65,000 Syrian refugees, to "replace her support for increased refugee admission" with "a new jobs program for our inner cities."
    The Obama administration set a goal of admitting as many as 10,000 Syrian refugees to the United States by the fall, but has yet to reach that target. Still, the number of Syrian refugees arriving in the United States is on the rise, with more refugees admitted to the United States since the beginning of May than in the previous seven months, according to State Department data.
    Respondents were split by party on whether they would be willing to accept refugees from Syria in particular, with 61% of Republicans saying the U.S. should not accept Syrian refugees compared with 23% of Democrats.
    Trump supporters overwhelmingly oppose accepting Syrian refugees.
    Just 23% support admitting refugees from Syria, even with background checks, compared with 76% who oppose it, according to the Brookings Institution survey.
    A majority of those surveyed, including those who opposed admitting more refugees into the country, said that Syrian refugees already in the country should be welcomed into American society. Just 21% said Syrian refugees currently in the U.S. should be expelled.
    The poll, conducted by Brookings scholar and University of Maryland professor Shibley Telhami, surveyed 1,580 panelists, including 845 adults, between May 20-31 with a margin of error for adults of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.