Fear, Loathing, and the Know-Nothings of 2010

An interesting article from journalist Jeffrey Kaye:

Take a guess: What percentage of the nation’s population are immigrants?

In a recent random survey, the average estimate of 1,000 Americans who were asked that question put the immigrant population of the U.S. at 35.2 percent. One thousand Brits asked the same question estimated the foreign-born population of the United Kingdom was 26.5 percent. The guesses turned out to be wild exaggerations.

Why care about wrong guesses about migrants on the part of people with no particular expertise phoned at random? The overblown estimates—combined with other survey results about increasingly hostile attitudes towards immigrants—are troubling. History has shown that anti-immigrant sentiment tends to rise during economic downturns, when fear, fueled by ignorance breeds nativism and a search for scapegoats. It was the “Know-Nothing” American Party of the mid- 19th century which, in reaction to rising immigration, demonized German and Irish Catholics as well as Chinese migrants of the era.

You can read Mr. Kaye’s entire blog post here.

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