PRRI Religion & Politics Tracking Survey, February 2015▶ Read the topline questionnaire, including the survey methodology, here. ▶ Read the news release here.
More Americans Say Higher Priority for Congressional Republicans Should be Passing Comprehensive Immigration Policy, Rather than Undoing Obama’s Immigration Policies
Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Americans say Republicans in Congress should prioritize passing comprehensive immigration reform legislation over legislation that would overturn Obama’s immigration policies. Seventeen percent say Republicans in Congress should prioritize undoing Obama’s immigration policies.
Support for prioritizing comprehensive immigration legislation crosses the political spectrum although strength of support varies. Eighty-five percent of Democrats, 73 percent of independents and 62 percent of Republicans express a preference for prioritizing comprehensive immigration legislation over undoing Obama’s immigration policies. Majorities of every major religious group also say Republicans in Congress should prioritize passing comprehensive immigration policies, including 78 percent of the religiously unaffiliated, 76 percent of minority Protestants, 73 percent of white mainline Protestants, 72 percent of Catholics, and 64 percent of white evangelical Protestants.
Compared to Late 2014, Fewer People Report Having Heard about Obama’s Use of Executive Action on Immigration
Thirty-six percent of Americans report hearing a lot about President Obama taking executive action on the issue of immigration. Slightly less than half (45 percent) the public report only hearing a little about the topic while 18 percent report not hearing anything about it all. Late last year, nearly half (46 percent) of Americans said they had heard a lot about the issue. Forty-two percent said they had heard a little about it while 12 percent reported not hearing anything about Obama’s use of executive action.
Most Americans say Obama Should Have Taken Executive Action on Immigration, but Political and Racial Divisions Persist
Fifty-two percent of the public say Obama should have taken executive action to address the immigration issue, while 42 percent say he should not have taken such action. Late last year, Americans were more divided, with 50 percent supporting the President’s use of executive action and nearly as many (45 percent) expressing opposition to it.
Americans remain strongly polarized along political lines over President Obama’s use of executive action. Nearly three-quarters of Republicans (74 percent) say Obama should not have taken executive action, while an identical number of Democrats (74 percent) are supportive of the move. Independents are somewhat more likely to say Obama was right to take executive action to than to say he should have refrained from doing so (53 percent vs. 42 percent).
There are also stark racial divisions. A majority (53 percent) of white non-Hispanic Americans say Obama should not have taken executive action on immigration, while 8-in-10 Hispanic (80 percent) and black Americans (80 percent) support the use of executive action.
Three-Quarters of Americans Support the Provisions of Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration
Despite notable opposition to Obama’s use of executive action, the substance of the policy remains popular. Roughly three-quarters (76 percent) of Americans favor allowing illegal immigrants who are the parents of children with legal status to stay in the U.S. for a period of up to three years if they pass a background check and have lived in the U.S. for at least five years. Nineteen percent of the public are opposed to this policy. Strong majorities of Democrats (87 percent), independents (77 percent), and Republicans (67 percent) support this policy, as do all majorities of all major religious groups, including majorities of Catholics (76 percent) and white evangelical Protestants (68 percent).
Connection to Obama Weakens Support for Immigration Policy
When Obama’s name is attached to an identically worded immigration policy question, support for the policy drops, particularly among Republicans. When the executive action policy provisions are identified as “Obama’s policy,” support drops 11 points to 65 percent, while opposition rises to 30 percent. The “Obama Effect” is even larger among Republicans. Two-thirds (67 percent) of Republicans favor the substance of Obama’s executive action allowing illegal immigrants who are parents of those with legal status to avoid deportation if they meet certain requirements. However, when Obama is linked to the policy, support among Republicans drops 16 points to 51 percent, while opposition rises to 47 percent. Support among independents also falls when Obama is linked to the policy (from 77 percent to 64 percent). Among Democrats, Obama’s identification with the policy does not affect support for it.
The “Obama Effect” is also evident in views about the main policy components of the DREAM Act. Nearly 7-in-10 (68 percent) Americans favor allowing illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to gain legal resident status if they join the military or go to college. Roughly 3-in-10 (28 percent) Americans oppose this policy. When the policy is identified with Obama, support drops modestly to 62 percent, while opposition increases to a third (33 percent). The impact on Republicans is substantial. Six-in-ten (60 percent) Republicans favor allowing illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to gain legal resident status if they attend college or join the military. Once Obama is identified as the author of the policy, support plummets 23 points to only 37 percent, while opposition rises to nearly 6-in-10 (58 percent).
Six-in-ten Americans Continue to Support a Path to Citizenship for Immigrants Living in the Country Illegally
Roughly 6-in-10 (59 percent) Americans say the current immigration system should allow immigrants living in the country illegally a way to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements. Nearly 1-in-5 (19 percent) say they should be allowed to become permanent legal residents but not citizens while roughly as many (18 percent) say they should be deported. Support for this policy has remained stable throughout 2014 to the present.
More Americans Perceive Immigrants as a Benefit to Society
Views of immigrants have turned sharply more positive. Fifty-eight percent of Americans say immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents compared to nearly one-third (31 percent) who say immigrants are a burden because they take our jobs housing and health care. In July 2014, less than half (49 percent) said that immigrants strengthened the country, while nearly as many (42 percent) reported that immigrants were a burden.