WASHINGTON — Young Republicans hold significantly more liberal views of immigrants and immigration than their older counterparts, reflecting a difference consistent with white Americans regardless of which political party they identify with, according to the latest American Values Atlas, a survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute survey.
While 41 percent of Republicans of all ages believe immigrants face a lot of discrimination in the United States, the percentage increases to 60 percent among Republicans between 18 and 29 years old, the survey found. That's a stark contrast to GOP voters 65 and older — only a third of that group says immigrants experience discrimination.
Researchers also found that 74 percent of young whites believe that immigrants are targeted for discrimination a lot, compared to 57 percent of white Americans of all ages. However, among Republicans, only for the youngest group, between 18 and 29, is that view in the majority. Even 30-to-39-year-old Republicans are evenly split, 48 percent to 48 percent, on whether immigrants undergo a lot of discrimination.
Overall, 63 percent of Americans say there's a lot of discrimination against immigrants, the most who say of any group asked about in the poll. That includes transgender people (62 percent), black Americans (57 percent) and gays and lesbians (58 percent).
Greg Goldstein, 20, and Ryan Kromsky, 24, are in the generation of Republicans that says immigrants face discrimination.
"Immigration has been the basis of the American society, and to this day immigrants offer a great deal to the workforce, economy and overall success of America," said Goldstein, an economics major at the University of Maryland and president of the school's Progressive College Republicans.
Kromsky, a former Maryland student who founded the group, agrees. "These hard workers, bright students and aspiring capitalists should be welcomed with open arms, the same way that Americans are openly welcomed abroad," said Kromsky, who graduated in 2015 and is now a financial systems analyst in Washington.
"Closed-minded Republicans need to expand their perspective to see how immigrants are helping us all create a better America. I believe that this will change with the younger generation of Republicans," Kromsky said.
Both Kromsky and Goldstein favor a more inclusive approach than their older Republican counterparts to immigrants in general, whether or not they're living in the U.S. illegally. The young Republicans polled share that view.
According to the PRRI poll, 64 percent of all Americans, regardless of political affiliation and age, believe that immigrants in the U.S. illegally should have a path to citizenship if certain conditions are met; only 16 percent say they should be deported. Among Republicans of all ages, support for a path to citizenship is lower, at 55 percent. But when only Republicans between the ages of 18 to 29 are accounted for, that number rises to 62 percent.
The election of President Donald Trump, who pledged to deport millions of immigrants living in the country illegally during the campaign, did not diminish the young Republicans' hope for a new stance by the GOP.
"I think the rhetoric was used to churn up votes and does not represent President Trump's actual views, but I truly hope that President Trump will respect immigration as the pillar of American society that it always has been," Kromsky said.
The age gap among Republicans also surfaces on gay rights: 54 percent of Republicans between 18 and 29 believe that gay and lesbian couples should marry, while half as many Republicans older than 65 agree. Younger GOP supporters are more closely aligned with the majority of Americans than their older counterparts: Overall, 58 percent of Americans support gay marriage. However, they are far from the average among young people of all political leanings: 74 percent of them support gay marriage.
The American Values Atlas is the result of 40,509 interviews conducted by telephone, including 24,266 of them to mobile phones, between May 18, 2016, and January 10, 2017. The margin of error is plus or minus 0.6 percentage points.