• 05.24.16

Most Americans Think The U.S. Should Do More To Accept Refugees

Why won’t our politicians do the right thing and give the people what they want?

Most Americans Think The U.S. Should Do More To Accept Refugees
Photo: vlada93 via Shutterstock

Over the last six months or so, Congress has proposed 31 anti-refugee bills–with about half of those specifically targeting Muslims or Syrians. Governors in 13 states have said that they would refuse to accept resettled refugees. But a new survey from Amnesty International shows that most Americans think the U.S. should be doing more to help refugees, not turning them away.


An amazing 71% of Americans say they would let refugees into the country, and 15% say they would accept them into their own homes. “That’s astounding–not just to say ‘okay, come and live somewhere here,’ but ‘you can come into my spare room,'” says Tarah Demant, a senior director at Amnesty International.

“This shows the level of commitment people have,” she says. “I think it’s the question of seeing human suffering and understanding the human aspect of this crisis. Instead, what politicians are doing is using fear and hate to try and drive a political agenda.”

The survey looked at attitudes about refugees in 27 countries around the world; the U.S. ranked ninth in terms of support for resettlement. China ranked as most accepting (46% said they would take a refugee into their own home), which may be partly because the country doesn’t currently accept a lot of refugees, so it’s more of an academic question there.

In the U.S., where the administration sets levels of refugee intake, President Obama said that we would have 85,000 spots for refugees this year, and another 100,000 next year. “These increases are meaningful and they’re laudable,” says Demant. “But they’re really just a drop in the bucket in terms of what the United States can and should be doing.”

Around the world, 1 in 122 people–almost 1% of the global population–are displaced from their homes every day by war, violence, or persecution. There are 4.8 million Syrian refugees alone. In the survey, 63% of Americans said they think the U.S. should be doing more.

“Anti-refugee sentiment is fully out of step with the American people,” Demant says. “It’s also out of step with our human rights obligations.”


All Photos (unless otherwise noted): via Amnesty International

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.