In his address to the U.S. Congress this week, Pope Francis urged American leaders to welcome immigrants who come to the United States with respect and empathy.
“Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the second World War,” the pontiff said. “We must not be taken aback by their numbers…but rather view them as persons…to respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal.”
A new poll suggests a slim majority of Americans agree with the pope’s compassionate view of immigrants. While 41 percent of Americans said immigrants are a burden to the country, because they take jobs, housing and health care, 51 percent disagreed, saying immigrants strengthen the United States with their hard work and talents.
American attitudes have evolved a bit since 1994, when 63 percent of Americans said immigrants were a burden and just 31 percent thought their presence helped strengthen the nation.
The United States is home to 41 million immigrants, the largest immigrant population in the world. America also boasts the largest economy of any of the nations in the Pew Research Center survey.
Pope Francis has also encouraged European Catholics to welcome some of the thousands of migrants flowing in from Syria and other countries.
The pope’s call might be most welcome in Germany, where 66 percent of people believe the foreign-born make their country stronger. Six million immigrants — born outside the European Union — live in Germany, which has one of the strongest economies in Europe. However, in a 2014 survey, a majority of Germans believed immigrants were failing to assimilate and made overall crime worse.
In Great Britain — home to 5.2 million people born outside the EU — 52 percent of respondents have a positive view of immigrants.
While Americans, the British and Germans hold the most positive views of immigrants, Greeks and Italians hold the most negative views, with vast majorities saying immigrants are a burden. The economies of both of those countries have struggled in recent years, and both nations are feeling the heavy impact of waves of African and Middle Eastern migrants.