Despite Anti-Immigrant Fixation of GOP Presidential Race, Florida Residents and Rest of Country Overwhelmingly Remain in Favor of Pro-Immigrant Reforms
Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) today released the 2015 American Values Atlas, a comprehensive examination of Americans’ attitudes on a range of immigration topics. Conducted from April 2015 through January 2016 and comprised of a massive sample size of 42,000 interviews, the new PRRI polling allows for a detailed analysis of how the general public, as well as specific states and populations, feel about immigrants and immigration policy.
The poll finds durable and broad support throughout the electorate and throughout the country, including in Florida, for pro-immigrant policies – at direct odds with the harsh, anti-immigrant tone and tenor of the Republican presidential campaign. As PRRI CEO Dr. Robert P. Jones said in a press statement, “While the campaigns of the leading Republican presidential candidates have been fueled by antipathy toward immigrants, these views are not reflective of the general public’s mindset and may not resonate among younger Republicans and white evangelical Protestants. While these younger voters are less of a factor in the primary season, Republican candidates will need their support in the general election.”
Among the key Florida findings in the new PRRI polling:
In Florida, Nearly Four-of-Five Want Undocumented Immigrants to “Be Allowed to Stay Here” Rather than “Required to Leave”: A combined 78% of Florida respondents in the PRRI polling support policies that would allow undocumented immigrants to stay here while only 18% of Floridians support policies that would require undocumented immigrants to leave. When asked a three-part question on preferred policies for undocumented immigrants, 62% of Florida respondents believe undocumented immigrants should be allowed a way to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements; 16% say they should be allowed to become permanent legal residents, but not citizens; and 18% say undocumented immigrants should be identified and deported.
In Florida, Immigrants Viewed as a Strength, Rather than a Threat, to American Society: By a 50%-36% margin, Florida respondents in the PRRI pollsaid that newcomers from other countries strengthen American society rather than represent a threat to American customs and values.
Among the key nationwide findings in the new PRRI polling:
Durable and Overwhelming Preference for Undocumented Immigrants to “Be Allowed to Stay Here” Rather than “Required to Leave”: A combined 77% of respondents (nearly four-of-five Americans) support policies that would allow undocumented immigrants to stay here while only one-of-five support policies that would require them to leave, as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz propose. Specifically, when asked a three-part question on preferred policies for undocumented immigrants, 62% of respondents believe undocumented immigrants should be allowed a way to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements; 15% say they should be allowed to become permanent legal residents, but not citizens; and 19% say they should be identified and deported. As PRRI notes, “[a]ttitudes on this question have remained remarkably stable throughout 2015.” Additionally, the PRRI data are very similar to findings and margins from Gallup polling and Pew Research polling.
Two-of-Three Republicans Back “Stay Here” Policies – Support is Especially Strong Among Younger Republicans: In a finding that may surprise those who believe Trump is speaking for a majority of Republicans when he promises to round up 11 million undocumented immigrants and force them to leave, two-of-three Republicans support a way for undocumented immigrants to “stay here” rather than “leave.” Specifically, 52% of Republican respondents back the citizenship option and 14% support legalization with no citizenship (a combined 66% of GOP respondents); 30% of Republicans back deportation. As PRRI’s poll summary notes, “Republican attitudes on immigration reform policy also vary significantly by age. More than six in ten (63%) young Republicans (age 18 to 29) support providing immigrants currently living in the country illegally with a path to citizenship, while just one in five (20%) prefer identifying and deporting these immigrants. Older Republicans, in contrast, express much lower support for a path to citizenship. Fewer than half (47%) of G.O.P. seniors (age 65 and older) favor allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements, while more than one-third (34%) support deportation.” Of note, the PRRI findings among Republicans echo the results of exit polling from 2016 Republican primary states – in 14/16 states, Republican primary voters have supported offering undocumented immigrants “a chance to apply for legal status” instead of deportation.
Nearly Nine-of-Ten Democrats Support “Stay Here” Policies: A combined 86% of Democrats in the PRRI study supported either the citizenship option (72%) or the legalization option (14%), while only 11% backed deportation.
In 49/50 States, Majority Support for Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants: In every state except South Dakota, a majority of respondents supported the citizenship option. Even in South Dakota, a plurality (46%) backed citizenship and an additional 16% backed legalization short of citizenship, meaning that 62% of SD respondents supported “stay here” policies.
Americans View Immigrants as a Strength, Rather than a Threat, to American Society: By a 50%-34% margin, respondents in the PRRI poll said that newcomers from other countries strengthen American society rather than represent a threat to American customs and values. As PRRI’s poll summary notes, “There are striking generational differences in attitudes about immigrants. More than two-thirds (68%) of young adults (age 18 to 29) say that immigrants coming to the U.S. strengthen the country, while fewer than one in five (19%) say that immigrants threaten traditional American customs and values. In contrast, only 36% of seniors (age 65 and older) believe that newcomers strengthen American society, while close to half (44%) of seniors believe that immigrants coming to the U.S. are a threat.”
According to Juan Escalante, Director of Florida’s Voice “These findings show that despite the hate we’ve seen from Republican presidential candidates, not only do Americans largely favor pro-immigrant policies, but 2/3 of Republican voters agree. In the short term, it may benefit Donald Trump and Ted Cruz to pander to hardliners in their party and peddle hateful rhetoric, but these numbers show that the general election is a different story entirely. In light of these numbers, Republican presidential prospects, and prospects for Florida candidates who are falling in step with these anti-immigrant policies, are looking grim.”
PRRI’s American Values Atlas on immigration: http://publicreligion.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/PRRI-AVA-2015-Immigration-Report.pdf
Access state-specific data from PRRI: http://publicreligion.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/PRRI-AVA-table-immigration-reform-by-state.jpg and http://publicreligion.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/PRRI-AVA-table-views-of-immigrants-by-state.jpg