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Polls Continue To Show Support For Basic Outline Of Senate Immigration Bill

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While the Senate was debating the so-called “Gang of Eight” bill, polls consistently showed that the majority of Americans supported the basic outlines of the bill, including the “path to citizenship” that was causing so many Republican Senators to oppose the bill. Now that the bill has passed the Senate and we wait for action in the House, the polling continues to show that the Senate plan, along with perhaps additional border security provisions continues to enjoy strong support.

First up, there’s a new poll from The Washington Post and ABC News:

A big majority of Americans supports a Senate-approved surge of manpower and fencing along the U.S. Mexico border, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. But some recoil at the $46 billion price tag, highlighting deep partisan disagreement about whether the heightened effort is worth the cost.

The second major component of the Senate bill also wins majority support. Some 55 percent support a “pathway to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants, nearly identical to three recent Post-ABC polls asking the same question about “illegal immigrants.”

On Tuesday President Obama demanded once again that Congress include a way for undocumented immigrants to become citizens, a sticking point for House Republicans who want to address border security first. The poll finds continued hesitance among their base: 58 percent of Republicans oppose a path to citizenship, while most independents (55 percent) and Democrats (69 percent) support it.

An even larger majority, 64 percent, support adding 20,000 border agents and 700 miles of fence along the border with Mexico. But support drops by 11 percentage points, to 53 percent, among the random half of respondents who were asked the same question but also told the measures came “at a cost of 46 billion dollars.” (Respondents were randomly assigned to hear the proposal with or without the cost; results for each group are reported separately).

While Senate bill’s two cornerstones each enjoy majority support, the overlap is far from complete and breaks down along well-worn party lines. Democrats express wide support for a pathway to citizenship but fewer than half (43 percent) support border controls for the price of $46 billion. Republicans overwhelmingly support heightened border control but are against the idea of a citizenship path.

These results are mirrored in a poll from National Journal:

A strong majority of Americans, 59 percent, said they would like to see the House either pass the Senate’s immigration bill as is or pass a version with even tougher border-control measures, according to the latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll.

In contrast, only one in five voters said they prefer that the House pass no immigration legislation at all, and only 13 percent said they want the House to strip the path to citizenship from the Senate’s bill.

In the survey, respondents were given four options for how the House should proceed on immigration. The two most popular answers were to pass the Senate bill with tougher border-enforcement provisions (30 percent) and to pass the Senate measure as is (29 percent).

House Speaker John Boehner has ruled out the latter option, and his conservative Republican Conference has expressed little interest in any package with a path to citizenship for the millions of people now living in the country illegally.

The trouble for Republicans is that passing immigration legislation without a path to citizenship was respondents’ least popular option across all age groups and income levels, among both men and women, in cities, suburbs, and rural areas.

(…)

In the survey, 37 percent of Democrats said they wanted the House to simply pass the Senate bill—a position supported by only 18 percent of Republicans. But Republicans were not enamored of the idea of stripping out citizenship provisions (16 percent) or passing no bill at all (16 percent). Instead, a plurality of Republicans, 42 percent, said they would like the House to pass a version of the Senate legislation but with firmer border-security provisions.

The one thing neither of these polls tries to measure is the intensity of public opinion on this issue. It may be true that doing nothing on immigration reform is the least popular option, but what these numbers don’t tell us is how important this issue would likely be to voters when they go to the polls in 2014 or 2016. One suspects that, outside of Latino voters, who historically have not turned out in numbers matching their share of the population, this is not a high-intensity issue for most supporters of immigration reform. For Republicans opposed to a pathway to citizenship, by contrast, I’d suspect that we’re talking about highly motivated voters likely to turn out in a Republican primary,  which is partly responsible for the difficult position that many Republicans find themselves in.

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Caj says:

    “Gang of eight”! Shouldn’t need a gang of eight to do something that should have been done years ago! All those years wasted while more and more illegal immigrants came in. Why is anyone surprised it’s turned into millions for Gods sake? Republicans still don’t really want it as that is one of there biggest talking points come election time. Whatever will they have to talk about once that has been resolved? Oh, silly me. Abortion. Whatever was I thinking?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Repeated polls have found that a majority of Americans support stronger enforcement of immigration law. Frequenty, that’s imagined as border control.

    The bone of contention on enforcement is what metric to use. The Senate’s bill relies excessively on spending as the major metric which I think practically no one who doesn’t actually have a seat in the Senate considers a suitable metric. Proposals in the House have mandated unrealistically high levels of border enforcement. In that sense the House is probably more in tune with popular opinion.

    In my own view to whatever degree we should be enforcing the law more vigorously the border is largely a red herring. Much more bang for the buck in enforcing the law with respect to employers. There, too, the Senate bill relies all but completely on spending rather than on controlling immigration.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    One aspect of the bill that should get more attention is that newly-legalized aliens will be exempt from the requirements of ObamaCare. That gives businesses a very valuable incentive to hire these newly-legal workers over Americans and legal immigrants, as well as replace covered employees with them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  4. al-Ameda says:

    This, begs a question:

    An even larger majority, 64 percent, support adding 20,000 border agents and 700 miles of fence along the border with Mexico. But support drops by 11 percentage points, to 53 percent, among the random half of respondents who were asked the same question but also told the measures came “at a cost of 46 billion dollars.” (Respondents were randomly assigned to hear the proposal with or without the cost; results for each group are reported separately).

    Currently, border enforcement is at its highest levels in decades, net immigration to America is zero. So …. Why do we need to waste billions of dollars on more border enforcement?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  5. JohnMcC says:
  6. Matt Bernius says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    One aspect of the bill that should get more attention is that newly-legalized aliens will be exempt from the requirements of ObamaCare. That gives businesses a very valuable incentive to hire these newly-legal workers over Americans and legal immigrants, as well as replace covered employees with them.

    This is a great example of problems created by taking an ideological stance of “no benefits for immigrants.” ObamaCare is considered a health related government benefit/service. So in order to appease the crowd who doesn’t want to provide services to non-citizens, the bill ends up creating a different “problem” for that same crowd to complain about.

    Of course, the adult response to this would be compromise. But right now that’s not a popular option with the party-in-question’s base.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0