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