The literature on public attitudes toward immigration devotes more attention to mass preferences over the admission and treatment of legal immigrants than to explaining attitudes toward illegal immigration. We theorize both similarity and difference in the nature and underpinnings of public opinion across domains. Two recent surveys, each employing a novel variant of conjoint analysis, help us test these expectations. We underline “categorical” response – that is, the rejection or acceptance of all profiles regardless of traits – on the pathway issue, both extensive in absolute terms (roughly 40% of respondents) and relative to assessments on legal admissions. This tendency also explains the entirety of the favorability gap between legal and illegal profiles assessed. On the other hand, those who do not express categorical responses emphasize the importance of both ethnocultural and human capital-related considerations, and the relative weight of these considerations is stable both regardless of the legality condition and across numerous political predispositions.
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