The majority of Americans think that immigration should be reduced but over half believe that welcoming overseas workers is good for the country, the latest Gallup poll shows.

The polling organization has looked at the issue of immigration in the United States over many decades and the views of people have not changed much. Americans in 2011 continue to show a slight preference for lower immigration levels over keeping the levels the same, while a much smaller percentage favors increased immigration. 

These views are similar to what Gallup found last year and are fairly typical of what it has measured since 2002. Longer term, immigration views have varied. On some occasions, such as in 1999, 2000, 2006, and 2008, Americans were about equally likely to favor maintaining current levels as to favor decreasing them.

At other times, the majority of Americans favored reducing immigration, such as after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and in the early to mid 1990s, when the state of California took steps to deny government services to illegal immigrants.

The 18% of Americans who favor increased immigration in the latest Gallup poll, while still the minority view by a wide margin, ties the historical high on this trend question first asked in 1965.

Democrats and Independents are divided almost equally between favoring decreasing immigration levels and keeping them as they are. Republicans show a more decided preference for decreasing immigration. However, just short of a majority hold that view this year, compared with more than 50% in 2009 and in 2010.

Older Americans and those with less formal education are also more likely to favor reduced immigration. Americans with postgraduate education are far more likely to favor keeping immigration levels where they are than reducing them, and young Americans are among the subgroups most likely to favor increased immigration.

Although Americans are most likely to say immigration levels should be decreased, 59% still believe immigration is good for the country today. In the 10-year history of this Gallup trend, a majority of Americans have consistently believed immigration is a good thing, with a high of 67% in 2006.

Americans in 2011 generally have positive views of immigration but at the same time do not believe there should be more of it. These views have been steady in the past year and are fairly typical of Americans' views on the issue over the past decade.

Immigration remains an important issue in the eyes of the public though the federal government has done little to address the issue in recent years. Last month, President Obama made a renewed call for immigration reform, but it is not clear whether the government will make it a priority as it continues to attempt to jump start the economy and re-evaluate its plans for ongoing military commitments in Afghanistan and Libya.