H-1B Visas Kill American Jobs, Voters Say

A plurality of voters think that issuing visas to highly skilled workers takes jobs away from American workers.

The Morning Consult poll, conducted last week, comes as a bipartisan group of 10 senators have called on the administration to “investigate the unacceptable replacement of American workers by H-1B workers.”

The federal government issues 65,000 H-1B visas each year to applicants with postsecondary degrees, on the basis that they are necessary to fill technically sophisticated positions in the U.S. workforce. When the application process opened on April 1, the number of applications exceeded the annual limit within a week. Applications also cleared the number of available slots in just one week in 2013 and 2014.

The scarcity of these visas relative to demand has led the business community to clamor for more permits, arguing they boost job creation for Americans.

But the poll found that a plurality of voters surveyed – 43 percent – disagreed with that position.

Thirty-six percent of voters agreed with the statement that “issuing visas to high-skilled workers creates jobs for Americans by strengthening the economy.” Twenty-one percent said they had no opinion.

Among Republicans, 51 percent said issuing visas to highly skilled workers displaces American jobs, compared with 35 percent who said doing so creates new jobs.

In contrast, Democrats are evenly split on whether the visas strengthen the economy or displace U.S. workers. Thirty-eight percent said the foreign workers replace American jobs, while an equal percentage said they create new ones.

Like Republican respondents, younger voters showed positive views of expanding the H-1B program. Fifty percent of voters age 18 to 29 said high-skilled worker visas create jobs, compared with 34 percent who held the opposing view. Among liberals, that breakdown was 46 percent to 37 percent; for white-collar workers it was 43 percent to 41 percent.

Voters between the ages of 45 and 64, as well as conservatives and blue-collar workers, were more likely than average to say the visas kill jobs, and less likely to say they created them.

This poll was conducted from April 17 through April 20, among a national sample of 1,595 registered voters. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Morning Consult