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Poll After Poll: American Public Wants Immigration Reform with Citizenship

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A range of new polls offer fresh evidence that Americans want immigration reform with citizenship, while providing another reminder of the momentum behind immigration reform in 2013:

  • Bipartisan Poll from Hart Research and Public Opinion Strategies – Overwhelming Support for Citizenship and Likely Legislative Framework: As Eliseo Medina of SEIU writes in Huffington Post of the bipartisan polling, “A solid 77 percent of voters favor a full package of immigration reforms, including a roadmap to citizenship, according to a poll of 1,000 voters conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm, and Hart Research Associates, a Democratic firm. The poll — sponsored by Service Employees International Union, America’s Voice Education Fund, and National Immigration Forum — confirms our strong belief that fixing the broken immigration system is not just a Latino priority, but also a high priority for the American people. A long-lasting program with accountability and a path to citizenship is what voters want; and it is not the third rail of politics that politicians have long feared.” The poll asked directly about support for creating a path to full citizenship for immigrants versus temporary status, finding that a whopping 87% of Americans said “it would be better to give people a chance to eventually earn citizenship at some point after they register for legal status, pass a background check, learn English, and pay taxes,” while just 7% said “they should be allowed to qualify for legal status and work in the United States but should never be given the chance to earn citizenship.”  Support for citizenship was strong across party lines, with 83% of Republicans, 91% of Democrats, and 82% of Independents choosing full integration.

While the bipartisan poll talked about the combined elements of reform, modeled on the likely contours of actual reform legislation, several other new polls looked solely at the citizenship and legalization components of the debate:

  • AP/GFK – Broad & Growing Support for Citizenship, Republicans Now Supportive: By a 62%- 35% margin, Americans favor “providing a way for illegal immigrants in the U.S. to become citizens,” a new poll from AP/GFK finds. The poll also shows that the intensity is on the side of reformers, finding that 35% strongly favor citizenship, 27% somewhat favor, 23% strongly oppose, and 12% somewhat oppose. Of note, the last time AP polled on this question in the summer of 2010, citizenship only enjoyed a small 50%-48% advantage.  As AP recaps, “[m]uch of the increase in support for a path to eventual citizenship has come among Republicans.  A majority in the GOP — 53 percent — now favor the change.  That’s up a striking 22 percentage points from 2010.”
  • CNN/ORC International – Majority Backs Legalization as Government’s Main Focus, Debate Trending in Positive Direction for Reform: New polling from CNN/ORC International also finds majority support for legalization, as well as further evidence that the debate is trending in a positive direction for the reform effort.  As CNN’s poll recap notes, “By a 53%-43% margin, people questioned in the poll say that main focus of the federal government should be on developing a plan that would allow undocumented immigrants to become legal residents, rather than deporting them.  That’s a switch from 2011, when by a 55%-42% margin, Americans said that deporting undocumented residents and stopping more of them from coming into the country should be the main focus of U.S policy on illegal immigration.”

Additionally, the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight.com blog highlighted four other recent polls exploring immigration and citizenship questions, finding that support for reform and earned citizenship – asked in different ways in each poll – was significantly higher than the enforcement-only alternatives in an ABC News/Washington Post poll, a Fox News poll, a CBS News poll, and a United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection poll.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, “The American public – Democrats and Republicans alike – is ready for immigration reform that includes citizenship for the 11 million undocumented Americans.  Now it’s time for Republicans who may have been fearful of backlash in the past to realize that there is substantial and growing support for enacting broad immigration reform in 2013.”

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