Poll Shows Broad Support For Immigration Reform, Path To Citizenship

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows broad support for immigration reform: 

With a bipartisan group of senators expected to unveil immigration-reform legislation in the next few days, a brand-new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that nearly two-thirds of Americans – including eight in 10 Latinos – support giving undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.

A slight majority of Republican respondents oppose this path, possibly foreshadowing the resistance which any comprehensive immigration reform bill might receive, especially in the GOP controlled House of Representatives.

But when Republicans hear that a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants includes paying fines and back taxes, almost three-quarters of them support the idea.

What’s more, a majority of the public – for the first time in the poll – agrees with the statement that immigration strengthens the nation, reflecting a shift in attitude on this issue.


A majority (54 percent) agrees with the statement that immigration adds to the nation’s character and strengthens it by bringing diversity and talent to the country.

In a 2010 NBC/WSJ survey, fewer than half of respondents agreed with that statement, and in 2005, a plurality said that immigration weakened the nation.

Additionally, the Democratic Party holds a 7-point advantage over the Republican Party on the question of which party does a better job in dealing with immigration.

Among an oversample of Latino respondents, the Democratic edge increases to 26 points.

Regarding the current legislative debate over immigration, 64 percent of respondents say they favor allowing undocumented immigrants to have the opportunity to become legal American citizens.

That includes 82 percent of Latinos, 80 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of political independents supporting a path to citizenship.

But 51 percent of Republicans oppose it, versus 47 percent who back it.

Yet when told that the pathway to citizenship would require paying fines and back taxes, as well as passing a security-background check, support grows – with 76 percent of total respondents, and 73 percent of Republicans backing the path.

That pathway to citizenship is the heart of a comprehensive immigration reform proposal that the so-called ”Gang of Eight” senators - including Democrats Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin and Republicans John McCain and Marco Rubio – are drafting and plan to introduce in the next few days.

The proposal also calls for strengthening the U.S.-Mexico border, tying that security to establishing the path to citizenship and expanding legal immigration.

A majority of all respondents (51 percent) believe undocumented immigrants should be eligible for citizenship five years after application. Just 12 percent say the eligibility should occur after 10 years, and only 18 percent believe citizenship should be immediate.

This is nothing new, of course, since we’ve seen similar numbers in other recent polls. The question is whether the broad level of support among the public for immigration reform will be enough to move the issue forward in Congress. As we’ve seen before, there often is not a correlation between what the public supports and what Congress can, accomplish.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Public Opinion Polls, Quick Takes, 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. legion says:

    Queuing up “Republicans vow to filibuster all immigration reform” headline for release in 4.. 3… 2…

  2. As we’ve seen before, there often is not a correlation between what the public supports and what Congress can accomplish.

    And the Tea Party dances to “How Ya Like Me Now?” Seeing as a non-functioning Congress was the dream of every patriot in a tri-corner hat with a clever sign, it’s no surprise Congress is unable to accomplish anything. It’s almost as if that were by design…..

    But here’s the thing. If this Congress is unable to figure something out, the problem will not just go away. If Obama doesn’t sign some kind of immigration reform package, his successor (R or D) probably will. And we’ll have three consecutive presidents dealing with a problem the dummies in Congress refuse to do anything about.

    We could have —should have— had immigration reform years ago if Congress weren’t so useless. I think maybe instead of standing athwart history yelling stop, it’s time to yell stop, not at history, but at the GOP themselves!

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