Major Special Topics Surveys Print

Survey | What Americans Want From Immigration Reform in 2014

[06.10.2014] Read the full report here. Read the news release here. Read the topline questionnaire, including the survey methodology, here. Watch video from the release event, here.

Executive Summary

At present, 62% of Americans favor providing a way for immigrants who are currently living in the United States illegally to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements, while 17% support allowing them to Immigration Survey Cover 640x828 Survey | What Americans Want From Immigration Reform in 2014 become permanent legal residents but not citizens, and roughly 1-in-5 (19%) favor a policy that would identify and deport all immigrants living in the United States illegally.

  • Current support for a path to citizenship is nearly identical to support levels one year ago (March 2013) when 63% of Americans supported a path to citizenship for immigrants who are living in the United States illegally.

The issue of immigration reform has support across party lines, although there are notable differences in the intensity of support.

  • Consistent with findings from March 2013, majorities of self-identified Democrats (70%), independents (61%), and Republicans (51%) continue to favor a path to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally. Notably, Republicans are roughly three-times more likely than Democrats to favor identifying and deporting all immigrants living in the U.S. illegally (30% vs. 11%).
  • Less than 4-in-10 (37%) Americans who are part of the Tea Party movement favor allowing immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to become U.S. citizens, while 23% favor allowing them to become permanent legal residents but not citizens; notably, 37% favor a policy that would identify and deport all immigrants in the U.S. illegally, the highest among all partisan groups.
  • Only 42% of Republicans who most trust Fox News to provide accurate information about politics and current events support a path to citizenship, compared to 60% of Republicans who most trust other news sources.

Majorities of all religious groups, with the exception of white evangelical Protestants, support a path to citizenship, including roughly 6-in-10 white mainline Protestants (58%), minority Protestants (62%) and Catholics (63%), and more than two-thirds (68%) of religiously unaffiliated Americans.

  • Among white evangelical Protestants, nearly half (48%) also favor allowing immigrants living in the U.S. illegally an opportunity to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements, an 8-point drop from March 2013 when 56% supported a path to citizenship.

A statistical model demonstrates that certain traits independently predict either support for or opposition to immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

  • The two most powerful independent predictors of support for a path to citizenship are being young (under 30 years of age) and identifying as Hispanic. Holding a four-year college degree, being female, identifying with the Democratic Party, and most trusting MSNBC as an accurate news source are also significant predictors of support for immigration reform.
  • In contrast, trust in Fox News as an accurate news source is the most powerful independent predictor of opposition to a path to citizenship. Identifying as Republican and being a born-again Christian are also significant predictors of opposition to immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.

Americans continue to favor allowing immigrants living in the country illegally who were brought to the U.S. as children to gain legal resident status if they join the military or go to college, a policy which comprises the basic elements of the DREAM Act.

  • More than two-thirds (68%) of Americans favor this policy, while three-in-ten (30%) are opposed.
  • Eight-in-ten (80%) Democrats and more than two-thirds (68%) of independents favor the basic tenets of the DREAM Act, as do a slim majority (52%) of Republicans.

Compared to one year ago, Americans’ political priorities are largely unchanged.Gotw June Immigration C 320x715 Survey | What Americans Want From Immigration Reform in 2014

  • Today, one-quarter (26%) of Americans say that reforming the nation’s immigration system should be the highest priority for the president and Congress, while 47% of Americans report that reforming the immigration system should be a high priority but not the highest, and one-quarter (25%) think that immigration reform should be given a lower priority.
  • Democrats (28%) and Republicans (28%) are equally likely to say that reforming the nation’s immigration system should be the highest priority, while independents rank it somewhat lower (25%).

Most Americans believe the immigration system in the United States is broken.

  • Less than 1-in-10 (6%) Americans believe that the immigration system is generally working, while 31% say it is working but with some major problems.
  • Nearly four-in-ten (38%) Americans report that the current immigration system is broken but working in some areas, while 23% say it is completely broken. These views remain essentially unchanged over the last year.

Although deportations of immigrants who are in the country illegally have increased since the beginning of the Obama administration, only one-quarter (25%) of Americans correctly state that deportations have increased over the past five or six years. Close to half (45%) of Americans believe that the number of deportations has stayed the same, while nearly 1-in-5 (18%) say deportations have decreased. Public knowledge about the level of deportations has remained unchanged since last year.

  • Democrats (30%) and independents (27%) are more likely than Republicans (18%) to report correctly that the number of deportations has increased over the past five or six years.
  • Only 12% of Americans who most trust Fox News for accurate information about politics and current events correctly believe deportations have increased.

Compared to one year ago, Americans are less likely to say that immigrants are having a negative economic impact on the country.

  • Today, Americans are equally as likely to believe that illegal immigration helps the economy by providing low-cost labor (45%) as they are to say that it hurts the economy by driving down wages (46%). In March 2013, a majority (56%) of Americans said that illegal immigrants negatively impact the economy by driving down wages.
  • Seven-in-ten (70%) Americans now say that immigrants coming to the country today mostly take jobs Americans do not want, while only 22% say they take jobs away from American citizens. Last year, Americans were somewhat less likely to say immigrants are taking unwanted jobs (64%).

American attitudes about the cultural impact of immigrants have also been moving in a more positive direction over the last year.

  • Today, nearly 6-in-10 (58%) Americans say that the growing number of newcomers from other countries strengthens American society compared to 37% who say that newcomers threaten traditional American customs and values.
  • As recently as 2010, Americans were divided in their views about the influence immigrants were having on American society; 44% said they threaten traditional customs and values while equal numbers (44%) said they strengthen American society.

Consistent with findings one year ago, more Americans say they trust the Democratic Party over the Republican Party to handle the issue of immigration. Close to half (46%) of Americans say they most trust the Democratic Party to handle the issue, while 33% say they most trust the GOP. Fourteen percent say they do not trust either party to handle the issue of immigration.Figure9 640x290 Survey | What Americans Want From Immigration Reform in 2014

Among all registered voters, opposing immigration reform is more of a liability for candidates than an asset.

  • Fifty-three percent of voters say they would be less willing to vote for a candidate who opposes immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for immigrants currently living in the U.S. illegally. Only 16 percent say they would be more likely to support a candidate who opposes immigration reform, while 30 percent say that a candidate’s position on this issue would make no difference to their vote.
  • Even among Republican voters, opposing immigration reform carries more political risk than benefit. Nearly half (46%) of Republican voters say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who opposes immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship, while 21% say they would be more likely to support such a candidate. Three-in-ten (30%) Republican voters say it would not make a difference to their vote either way.
  • Among religious voters, opposing immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship is also more of a liability than an asset. Among all major religious groups, at least twice as many voters say they would be less likely to support a candidate who opposes a path to citizenship as say they would be more likely to support such a candidate.

Nearly 4-in-10 (37%) voters believe the Republican Party’s position on immigration reform will hurt the GOP in the 2014 elections, compared to only 11% who say it will help the party. A plurality (44%) of voters believe the GOP’s current position on immigration will not have any discernible effect on the party’s fortunes in 2014.

At this point in the 2014 election season, Americans are relatively disengaged.

  • Only 16 percent say they are following news about the 2014 congressional campaigns in their district or state very closely.
  • Only about half (51%) the public say they are absolutely sure of voting in the 2014 congressional election. Roughly 1-in-5 (21%) say they will probably vote, while one-quarter (25%) say their chances of voting are 50-50 or less.
Read the full report here. Read the news release here. Read the topline questionnaire, including the survey methodology, here.