Almost Half of Americans Believe it Extremely/Very Likely that a Large Number of Illegal Immigrants Come into the Country in Next 5 Years

Almost two in five Americans believe the U.S. will not be able to borrow money because of debt load

Jun 26, 2013, 05:00 ET from Harris Interactive

NEW YORK, June 26, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- In this, the season of the action blockbuster, one can go to the movies and watch a plague turn people into zombies or terrorists take over the White House. But that's just Hollywood, right? That can't happen in real life, can it? Hopefully not – but there are threats that could more conceivably happen, and that some Americans believe are extremely or very likely to occur in the next five years.


Among 15 possible scenarios, the one perceived as extremely or very likely by the highest percentage of U.S. adults (45%) is the possibility that a large number of illegal immigrants come into the country in the next five years, while an additional 20% say it is likely. Next in terms of perceived likelihood, almost two in five (38%) say it is extremely or very likely that the national government becomes unable to borrow money due to a huge debt load, with an additional 19% saying it is likely this will occur. In 2007, the last time The Harris Poll asked this question, over half of Americans believed it was extremely or very likely large groups of immigrants would come into the country (55%) and just one-quarter (26%) thought the government would be unable to borrow money.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,240 adults surveyed online between May 8 and 13, 2013 by Harris Interactive. (Full findings on all 15 tested threats, including data tables, available here)

One third of Americans think each of the following is extremely or very likely: a significant loss of jobs to foreign countries (34% now, 52% in 2007), a significant natural disaster destroys large areas of a major city (33% now, 43% in 2007), and significant trade imbalances lead to foreign ownership of the country's debts and property (33% now, 35% in 2007).

Two items show the largest differences over time. Currently, three in ten Americans (29%) believe it to be extremely or very likely that a major stock market crash occurs in the next five years, compared to 11% in 2007; in contrast, one-quarter (26%) believe energy needs significantly exceeding energy supplies is extremely or very likely, compared to 40% believing this six years ago.

At the bottom of this list, three in ten Americans say that it is not at all likely that a city within the country is attacked with a nuclear weapon (31%) and that a major world war occurs involving most industrialized nations (30%), while 27% say it is not at all likely that there is a significant rise in the level of the oceans in the next five years.

Partisan differences
Not surprisingly, Republicans and Democrats have some different thoughts on the likelihood of these possible events happening in the next five years. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to believe it is extremely or very likely that a large number of illegal immigrants will come into the country (61% vs. 34%), that the national government becomes unable to borrow money due to debt (50% vs. 25%), significant trade imbalances lead to foreign ownership of the country's debts (43% vs. 24%) and a significant loss of jobs to foreign countries (40% vs. 28%). Democrats, however, are more likely than Republicans to believe there will be a significant rise in the level of the oceans (23% vs. 11%).

To see all 15 major threats and other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between May 6 and 13, 2013 among 2,240 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #40, June 26, 2013
By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll and Public Relations Research

About Harris Interactive
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