We know we sound like a broken record, but three new polls demonstrate, again, that the Republican presidential contenders are mostly far afield of where the public is on immigration.
In contrast to the mass deportation approach advocated by many in the Republican field and by many GOPers in Congress (Lamar Smith, Elton Gallegly and Steve King come to mind), the American public, including Republican voters, supports a more practical and nuanced approach to immigration that combines immigration enforcement with a path to legalization for law abiding undocumented immigrants. The polling also finds that in contrast to Latino voters, for whom immigration is a personal and defining issue, immigration does not animate Republican primary audiences in the manner that many in the political class believe.
Below are highlights from the latest batch of polling to show the error of the dominant Republican approach to immigration:
United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll: “Public Wants Immigrants to Be Able to Stay”: As Ron Brownstein of National Journal writes of their new polling, “a substantial majority of Americans say they would prefer to allow some or all illegal immigrants to remain in the United States…When asked what should be done with the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, just 25 percent of those polled said that they should all be deported ‘no matter how long they have been in the U.S.’ Another 28 percent of those surveyed said that all illegal immigrants should be allowed ‘to stay, provided they have broken no other laws and commit to learning English and U.S. history.’ The largest group, at 39 percent, said that the United States should ‘deport some, but allow those who have been here for many years and have broken no other laws to stay here legally.’” Brownstein also noted the partisan breakdown in the findings, and the fact that Republicans are not as uniformly hard-line as many in the political class suggest, writing, “just 33 percent of Republicans supported deporting all illegal immigrants. That’s significantly more than the 15 percent of Democrats who backed that approach. In a roughly mirror image, just 19 percent of Republicans wanted to allow all illegal immigrants to stay, compared with 32 percent of Democrats. In both parties, though, the largest group aligned behind the choice Gingrich has championed: allowing long-term illegal immigrants who have not broken any other law to remain. Forty-three percent of Republicans and 42 percent of Democrats backed that option.”
Pew Research Polling: Pew Research Polling: Public Wants “Both/And” Approach to Immigration: New polling from Pew Research Center asked all voters “what should be the priority for dealing with illegal immigration in the U.S.?” and presented three options, “better border security and stronger enforcement of our immigration laws,” “creating a way for illegal immigrants already here to become citizens if they meet certain requirements,” or an option that expressed that “both should be given equal priority?” The poll finds that the “both/and” approach garners the most support and, when combined with support for the solely path to citizenship option, a full 67% of voters support a form of sensible immigration reform involving a path to citizenship. Writes Pew Research, “the public continues to support tough measures to crack down on illegal immigration, but also a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally. A plurality (43%) says the priority should be better border security and enforcement, as well as creating a way for illegal immigrants to become citizens if they meet certain requirements. Fewer say the priority should only be better security and stronger enforcement of immigration laws (29%), or only creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the U.S. (24%).” Notably, while 43% of Republican voters support the enforcement-only priority option, a combined 55% of Republicans support one of the two choices involving a path to citizenship option.
New York Times/CBS News: Immigration Not Animating Issue for Republican Voters in 2012 Cycle: New New York Times/CBS News polling of likely Republican caucus-goers in Iowa provides more evidence that these voters just aren’t animated by immigration. The poll asked “Which of the following issues will be most important in deciding who you will support in the Iowa Republican Caucus” and listed seven issues, including “illegal immigration.” Of the seven options, the immigration issue ranked lowest in priority at 4% (including behind an aggregate, “something else” option).
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
Another day, another set of polling showing that anti-immigrant extremists don’t speak for Republicans, let alone the American people. It’s past time our policymakers and politicians took note: the sensible approach to immigration that represents good policy also happens to be good politics.