Majority Support For “Path To Citizenship” For Illegal Immigrants

A new poll indicates that most Americans, including most Republicans, support allowing people in the country illegally to normalize their status and, eventually, become citizens:

Nearly two-thirds of Americans favor giving illegal immigrants in the country an opportunity for legal status with a path to citizenship, according to a poll published Thursday by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution. Support for an earned path to citizenship for those immigrants came from 71 percent of Democrats and also a majority, 53 percent, of Republicans, the poll found.

The option that drew the least support in the poll was legal residency for illegal immigrants with no path to citizenship: only 14 percent of Americans favored that approach. A larger minority, about 21 percent, said illegal immigrants should be identified by the authorities and deported.

As Republicans have been searching with fresh intensity in recent weeks for a new approach to the divisive issue of immigration, the poll provides potentially heartening information to lawmakers who have urged the party to support overhaul legislation that would eventually allow illegal immigrants to become citizens.

The poll is notable because of the large size of its sample. The results are based on bilingual landline and cellphone interviews between Jan. 28 and Feb. 24 with 4,465 adults in the continental United States. (The margin of error is plus or minus two percentage points.) The Public Religion Research Institute is a nonpartisan research organization that focuses on religion and politics. The Brookings Institution, which is also nonpartisan, conducts research on public policy issues.

Majorities of all religious groups in the poll supported giving earned citizenship to immigrants in the country illegally, but support was especially strong among Hispanics, with 74 percent of Hispanic Catholics and 71 percent of Hispanic Protestants favoring that proposal.

Support for the citizenship option was also strong among black Protestants, 71 percent, and Jewish Americans, with 67 percent. A majority, 56 percent, of white evangelical Protestants, the most conservative group in the poll, also favored offering citizenship to illegal immigrants after they met certain requirements.

Nearly half of Americans, 45 percent, said the Republican Party had been hurt in recent elections by its positions on immigration, while only 7 percent of Americans thought the party had been helped by its views. In the presidential race last year, the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, supported a strategy of “self-deportation,” which would have made life so difficult in the United States for illegal immigrants that they would feel forced to leave on their own.

From the poll itself:

More than 7-in-10 (71%) Democrats, nearly two-thirds (64%) of independents, and a majority (53%) of Republicans favor an earned path to citizenship. Similar numbers of Democrats (13%), independents (14%), and Republicans (13%) favor a path to legal residency, but not citizenship. Meanwhile, 13% of Democrats, 21% of independents, and 32% of Republicans favor deportation.

One wonders if Congress will pay attention to this.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Public Opinion Polls, Religion, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Again at the risk of beating dead donkeys and elephants, the problem with those sort of polls is that generally speaking Zombieland would not have any clue about the various differences between residency and citizenship. Do you actually believe the low information voter out there knows green cards from Green Day, or irrevocable privileges and immunities from irresistible poontang? Come on.

    That aside, obviously we need fundamental reforms. Obviously there needs to be some form of amnesty. Obviously there needs to be a path to lawful permanent residency. There does not, however, need to be a path to citizenship, especially for those who jumped the border as adults. Granted, if the agenda is to create more Democrat class-identity voters, then, yeah, citizenship must be the goal. But if the agenda is to fix a broken legal-economic system then the key items needs to be amnesty and safe harbor provisions, tax and penalty provisions, immigration court reform and border control.

  2. @Tsar Nicholas:

    So basically, you’re saying that the vast majority of your fellow citizens are stupid. And your proof for this assertion is that they disagree with you.

    If you feel this way, why bother following politics at all?

  3. slimslowslider says:

    Why bother living in America, at that?

  4. mantis says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    So basically, you’re saying that the vast majority of your fellow citizens are stupid.
    And your proof for this assertion is that they disagree with you.

    Ad infinitum.

  5. legion says:

    Can we keep the immigrants and deport Ann Coulter? Although the sniping between her and Rand Paul has some serious entertainment potential…

  6. ajdarling says:

    I do not support “pathway to citizenship”. If an illegal immigrant is caught, he/she/they, should be sent back to where they came from and given the opportunity to come to America legally. I say speed up the process through which immigrants can legally come here and work, and eventually become an american if they so desire. Illegal immigrants have broken our nation’s laws that are on the books, and should therefore be treated accordingly.

  7. Rafer Janders says:

    As I’ve written many times before, fine, but only if we also create a “pathway to citizenship” for legal immigrants and residents. The way it stands now, many categories of people here legally on family, work or student visas have no way forward to convert their status to a green card and citizenship even if they want to.

    If illegal immigrants who decided to flout our immigration rules receive a pathway to citizenship, the least we can do is offer the same to all legal immigrants and residents.

  8. robinked says:

    this ‘poll’ is pure & unadulterated B.S., cuz when ya Only ‘poll’ Liberal Whack-Jobs this IS whatcha get More B. freakin S.!!!