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Across Faith Traditions, Strong Majorities of Voters Support Immigration Reform

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New Poll Reveals Strong Support for Pragmatic, Compassionate Solutions among People of Faith

Washington, DC – A new survey released today by Public Religion Research Institute shows broad support for comprehensive immigration reform by voters of all major religious traditions. On the heels of the yearlong healthcare debate, political leaders are keenly aware of the real political power that a united religious community could have in passing comprehensive immigration reform legislation into law.

Over the past year, an increasing number of conservative evangelical leaders and denominations have joined with Catholic, Mainline Protestant, and Jewish organizations to call for comprehensive immigration reform legislation.  This new poll reveals a similar unity in the pews across the religious spectrum: people of faith support comprehensive immigration reform and reject enforcement-only policies such as those advocated by the anti-immigrant lobby.

On the heels of major faith community participation in Sunday’s 200,000 person strong March for America in Washington, DC, and hundreds of Congressional visits by faith activists for immigration reform this week, the national survey explains not only the support for the policy of comprehensive immigration reform, but also the values that drive the policy, from fairness to taxpayers and national security to keeping families together and protecting the dignity of every person.

The national survey was based on 1,201 phone interviews with registered voters conducted between March 5 and March 11, 2010, and included oversamples in Ohio and Arkansas with 402 phone interviews in each state.  Key findings include:

  • The current system is widely understood to be broken and unsustainable. Nationally, 56% of Americans of faith say that the immigration system is largely or completely broken.
  • Comprehensive immigration reform is more popular than mass deportation by a 2:1 margin.  When presented with a pair of statements about what we could do to reform immigration, 65% of respondents across all faith traditions said that a practical solution to illegal immigration was “to require all illegal immigrants to register with the government and meet certain requirements including working, paying taxes and learning English before having the opportunity to apply for citizenship.”   Only 30% said that undocumented immigrants “should not be allowed to become citizens and compete with jobs that are already hard to come by” and should instead be sent back to their home countries
  • Support for comprehensive reform is high across all denominations. Ninety-two percent of Catholics said that they “strongly favor” or “favor” the comprehensive reform proposal outlined above, with 62% saying “strongly favor.” Among white Evangelicals, 89% “strongly favor” or “favor” comprehensive reform, with 66% selecting “strongly favor.” Sixty percent of white mainline Protestants “strongly favor” comprehensive reform, and the combined population of white mainline Protestants who said they “strongly favor” or “favor” the proposal was 86%.
  • Mass deportation is roundly rejected.  A majority of voters–56%–disagree with the statement that “we should make a serious effort to deport all illegal immigrants back to their home countries.” 
  • Americans seek a practical way to deal with the undocumented population.  Sixty-eight percent of participants surveyed said that it is an “extremely serious” or “very serious” problem that “the immigration system has no practical way of dealing with all the illegal immigrants who are already here.”  Only 8% of respondents called the problem “not too serious” or “not at all serious.”
  • People of faith, like all Americans, want fair and practical solutions.  In keeping with other polls, Americans of faith overwhelmingly described pragmatic concerns of security and fairness to taxpayers as important “moral guides” for immigration reform.  Eighty-eight percent of respondents agreed that “enforcing the rule of law and protecting national security” was an extremely or very important value, and 84% said that “ensuring fairness to taxpayers” was extremely or very important.
  • People of faith also want policies that protect families and human dignity.  Eighty percent of respondents agreed that “keeping families together” was an extremely or very important value to guide immigration reform, and 82% believed that “protecting the dignity of every person” was an extremely or very important moral guide.

Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, said, “As if there was any doubt, this new poll proves that the moral clarity with which religious leaders speak out on immigration is backed up by their congregants. Religious voters, like the majority of Americans, want Congress to deliver a real solution on immigration that upholds our core values.”

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.