PUBLIC POLLING ON IMMIGRATION REFORM

The New Immigration Paradigm

by Mahwish Khan on 07/23/2012

July 2012 | Click here for the PDF.

Overall, Voters are Pragmatic and Pro-Solution; For Latinos, the Issue is Defining and Personal

Conventional wisdom used to hold that American voters oppose immigration positions like those taken by President Obama, support strategies like those advocated by Governor Romney, and will rise up to swing elections against pro-immigrant candidates.  But numerous public opinion surveys—and the results of recent elections—have proven these claims are exactly wrong.  The facts:

  • When asked who would do a better job handling immigration, Obama leads or ties Romney, including among Independents.
  • Voters do support the legalization of undocumented immigrants.  They also support the Obama policy to end deportations of DREAMers.
  • Despite this support for common sense immigration policies, immigration is not a “voting issue” for most Americans.  Those voters who say they want to “punish” Obama for his immigration positions are unlikely to vote for him anyway.
  • Immigration is a defining and mobilizing issue for one group with the potential to swing key battleground states: Latino voters.

Read on for the numbers behind these facts.

When asked who would do a better job handling immigration, Obama leads or ties Romney, including among Independents.

Quinnipiac Polls in FL, OH, PA (June 19-25, 2012; approx. 1200 surveys in each state)
Regardless of how you intend to vote, who you think would do a better job on immigration?
Barack Obama Mitt Romney Don’t know/NA
Florida 46 40 14
Florida Independents 47 38 15
Ohio 45 38 17
Ohio Independents 45 35 20
Pennsylvania 44 38 18
Pennsylvania Independents 40 40 20

 

ABC News/Washington Post Poll (July 5-8, 2012; 1003 surveys nationwide)
While only 38% of voters approve of the way President Obama is handling immigration issues, they are split (45-45) on who would do better, Obama or Romney.

 

In Pew polls over the last two years, strong majorities of Americans embraced a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants—either alone or combined with enforcement.  Citizenship fares far better than enforcement alone. 

Pew Research Center Nationwide Surveys
What should be the priority for dealing with illegal immigration in the U.S.: one, better border security and stronger enforcement of our immigration laws; OR, two, creating a way for illegal immigrants already here to become citizens if they meet certain requirements; OR, should BOTH be given equal priority?
Enforcement Citizenship Both
June 2012 28 27 42
February 2011 35 21 42
September 2010 30 23 44

 

When asked specifically, the public (including Independents) also supports President Obama’s policy to end the deportations of “DREAMers.”

Quinnipiac Polls in FL, OH, PA (June 19-25, 2012; approx. 1200 surveys in each state)
As you may know, the Obama administration has announced a new policy in which young illegal immigrants who came to the country as children will be able to obtain work permits and will not face deportation. Do you support or oppose this new policy?
Support Oppose Don’t know/NA
Florida 58 33 9
Florida Independents 62 30 8
Ohio 52 38 9
Ohio Independents 54 39 8
Pennsylvania 51 41 9
Pennsylvania Independents 51 41 7

 

Although most voters support common sense immigration policies, they do not see immigration as a “voting issue.”

Quinnipiac Polls in FL, OH, PA (June 19-25, 2012; approx. 1200 surveys in each state)
Does this new policy make you more likely to vote for Barack Obama for President, less likely to vote for Barack Obama for President, or doesn’t it make a difference?
No difference More likely Less likely
Florida 58 17 22
Florida Independents 63 14 22
Ohio 60 11 27
Ohio Independents 61 10 26
Pennsylvania 59 12 27
Pennsylvania Independents 57 10 32

 

ABC News/Washington Post Poll (July 5-8, 2012; 1003 surveys nationwide)
Voters were asked how important each of six specific issues will be in determining their vote for President.  Out of the six issues (economy, health care, immigration, federal budget deficit, taxes, and Supreme Court appointments), immigration ranked last.  Only 18% said that the immigration issue will be “extremely” important in their presidential selection, compared with 53% who said the same about the economy and 42% who said so about health care.

 

Republican primary/caucus surveys
Although immigration was discussed at nearly every Republican debate in 2011 and 2012, it wasn’t top of mind for most Republican primary/caucus voters.  In Iowa, only 3-4% of likely caucus-goerssaid immigration was their number one issue.While Romney and others expected Newt Gingrich’s support for legalizing the status of a small number of undocumented immigrants would hurt him, the policy was actually quite popular.  In a Washington Post-ABC News poll of 858 Iowa Republicans, 34% of potential caucus-goers and 38% of likely caucus-goers said Gingrich’s immigration policy was a major reason to support him, while only 16% of potential caucus-goers and 15% of likely caucus-goers said it was a major reason to oppose him. [Washington Post]

 

Voters who want to “punish” Obama for his immigration position are not likely to vote for him anyway.   

Quinnipiac Polls in FL, OH, PA (June 19-25, 2012; approx. 1200 surveys in each state)
If the election for President were being held today, and the candidates wereBarack Obama the Democrat and Mitt Romney the Republican, for whom would you vote?Does this new policy make you more likely to vote for Barack Obama for President, less likely to vote for Barack Obama for President, or doesn’t it make a difference?

 

% Rs voting Democratic % Ds voting Republican % of Rs who say less likely to vote Obama % of Ds who say less likely to vote Obama
Florida 8 7 43 5
Ohio 5 5 49 10
Pennsylvania 10 7 45 9

 

For Latino voters, however, the immigration issue is defining and personal.  

Latino Decisions Polls in AZ, CO, FL, NV, VA (June 12-21, 2012; 400 surveys in each state)
In all five states, immigration was a “top two” issue that Latino voters want Congress and the President to address; in Arizona and Virginia it was the number one issue.
Fifty-five percent of all Latino voters in these battleground states know someone who is undocumented, and 30% know someone who has been in detention or deportation proceedings.
Sixty-seven percent of Latino voters said that President Obama’s DREAMer protection policy has made them more enthusiastic about voting for him in November, while 59% said that Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” stance has made them less enthusiastic about him.
Voter enthusiasm about the elections in general also shot up following President Obama’s DREAMer announcement.  And Obama gained/Romney lost 10 points on the ballot.

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