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Description: Polling, which included overall national results and analysis of both Latino voters and swing voters from key battleground congressional races, echoes the results from the 2008 elections: Americans are seeking practical and common sense reform to the broken immigration system and favor approaches and candidates emphasizing sensible reforms instead of enforcement-only provisions. The conventional wisdom that dominated in the media following the immigration reform debates in 2006 and 2007 appears to be erroneous, according to the results.
While the economy is by far voters’ top concern, more than 8 in 10 (84%) swing district voters say immigration is a “serious” problem (including 79% of Democrats, 83% of Independents, and 92% of Republicans).
Voters in swing districts overwhelmingly prefer a comprehensive approach to immigration over solely focusing on border security, ending benefits and requiring people who are in the country to leave. When the choice is between a comprehensive approach and simply enforcing the current laws, by more than 2 to 1, voters prefer a comprehensive approach to immigration reform.
When testing the public’s voting preference in swing districts with one candidate supporting comprehensive reform (the Supporter) and another preferring enforcement and benefit cut-off (the Opponent), the Supporter led by 24%, 57% to 33%. Even after voters heard strong criticisms of the Supporter’s position on immigration, the Supporter retained an average 17% edge over the Opponent. When voters were given a response to the attack on the Supporter’s support for comprehensive reform, the Supporter’s position again improved to a 19% lead over the Opponent.
Support for comprehensive immigration reform improved voter perceptions of the Supporter along a variety of dimensions. We asked voters whether a number of attributes applied better to the Supporter or the Opponent, and the Supporter led on every issue and leadership characteristic, including an advantage on immigration by 30%, standing up for the middle class by 19%, problem solving by 18%, and handling the economy by 16%. Support for comprehensive immigration reform notonly enhances the public’s view of a candidate on the issue of immigration, but it also increases voter support for that candidate along a variety of other dimensions, including voters’ confidence in the candidate’s approach to improving the economy.
Swing district voters overwhelmingly favor a comprehensive approach to immigration reform over other options. By 66% to 27%, voters prefer comprehensive immigration reform to border enforcement, benefit cutoff, and deportation. Support for comprehensive reform crosses party lines – more than 6 in 10 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents prefer a comprehensive approach. Comprehensive reform is also preferred by a large majority of persuadable voters – 63% of voters who were undecided as to which congressional candidate to support when the survey was conducted (late September – early October) prefer a comprehensive approach.
When asked specifically what the next session of Congress should do, nearly two thirds (64%) of voters prefer that Congress passes comprehensive reform, while only 27% would rather see the current laws enforced more strongly. Comprehensive reform is preferred by the majority of Democrats (74%), Independents (64%), and Republicans (54%). And among those most conflicted about which candidate to support, nearly two-thirds (63%) prefer that Congress pass comprehensive reform.
The Benenson Strategy Group and Lake Research Partners conducted 3371 interviews in 9 swing Congressional districts with likely voters September 23 – October 5, 2008. The margin of error for overall results is ±1.89%.