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News Release | Strong Majority of Americans Say Immigration Policy Should Be Decided on the National Level

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[06.27.2012]

Strong Majority of Americans Say Immigration Policy Should Be Decided on the National Level

Majority also favor allowing young undocumented immigrants to gain legal status if they served in the military or went to college

WASHINGTON – Nearly 8-in-10 Americans (77 percent) say that immigration policy should be decided at the national level, while 1-in-5 (20 percent) say it should be left up to the states, a new survey finds.

Released following the Supreme Court decision on Arizona’s controversial immigration law, the June 2012 Religion and Politics Tracking Survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute finds broad agreement across racial, political and religious divides that immigration policy is best decided at the national level, as opposed to the state level.

“There is broad consensus among the public that immigration is an issue that should be handled at the federal level,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, PRRI CEO. “Across, generational, partisan, and religious divides, Americans agree that immigration is a national issue requiring a national solution.”

The survey also finds a majority of Americans support granting legal status to those brought to the United States as children, a policy that more closely reflects the national DREAM Act and goes beyond the more limited recent executive order by the Obama administration. A majority (55 percent) of Americans agree that illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children should be able to gain legal resident status if they join the military or go to college. Roughly 4-in-10 (41 percent) are opposed.

“Although most Americans support the basic principles of the Dream Act, there is a sizeable gap between Millennials and seniors,” said Daniel Cox, PRRI Research Director. “Nearly two-thirds of Millennials favor these basic elements of the DREAM Act. Seniors, on the other hand, are divided, with nearly as many voicing opposition as support.”

With regard to religious groups, majorities of minority Christians (65 percent), Catholics (63 percent), and the unaffiliated (55 percent) agree that illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children should be able to gain legal resident status if they join the military or go to college.  White mainline Protestants are nearly evenly divided (47 percent agree, 50 percent disagree).  White evangelical Protestants are the only religious group among whom a majority disagree with this policy (39 percent agree, 58 percent disagree).

Read the Topline Questionnaire, including the survey methodology here.
 
The survey was designed and conducted by Public Religion Research Institute. Results of the survey were based on bilingual (Spanish and English) RDD telephone interviews conducted between June 20, 2012 and June 24, 2012 by professional interviewers under the direction of Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS). Interviews were conducted among a random sample of 1,022 adults 18 years of age or older in the continental United States (312 respondents were interviewed on a cell phone). The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3.5 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence.

Public Religion Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization specializing in research at the intersection of religion, values, and public life. 

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