PRINCETON, NJ -- More than half of Americans -- 53% -- say the need for government action this year to halt the flow of illegal immigrants at the borders is "extremely important," the first time a majority have held this view in the four times Gallup has asked this question since 2006. Another 29% call it "very important" and 12% "moderately important," while 7% say it is "not that important."
The new results from a June 9-12 Gallup poll show an 11-point increase since May 2010 in the percentage rating the issue extremely important. This increase is seen about equally among various gender, race, age, and political party groups, as well as by region of the country.
Concern is slightly higher among men than women, among whites than nonwhites, and among older than among younger Americans. However, the biggest difference is seen by party, with 68% of Republicans rating border control extremely important, compared with 42% of Democrats.
Concern About Resolving Status of Existing Illegal Immigrants Is Also Up
The new poll also finds Americans expressing greater urgency about the need for the government to develop a plan to deal with the many illegal immigrants already living in the United States. Forty-three percent now say taking steps this year to do this is extremely important, up from 36% a year ago.
Americans Continue to Prioritize Border Control
While Americans' concerns about both aspects of the illegal immigration policy debate have risen, their preference for which should be the priority for government to deal with has not changed appreciably. Fifty-five percent now say that government's main focus should be on halting the flow of illegal immigrants, while 43% say it should be on developing a plan for those already here. Since 2006, Gallup has consistently found half or more of Americans choosing border control as the priority.
Most Still Favor Path to Citizenship
In 2006, former president George W. Bush articulated his support for policies that would allow illegal immigrants already working in this country to apply for citizenship under certain conditions, and 61% of Americans agreed with him at that time. Despite the repeated failure of such bills to make it through Congress, nearly two-thirds of Americans, 64%, continue to support the proposal.
Additionally, 13% would allow illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S. for a limited time in order to work, while 21% favor deportation.
Majorities of Americans across all major subgroups favor creating a path for current illegal immigrants to become citizens, including 56% of Republicans, 62% of independents, and 76% of Democrats. Support is slightly higher in the West (at 70%) than in the South (59%), with support in the East (62%) and Midwest (65%) similar to the national average.
By 55% to 43%, Americans put greater emphasis on border control than on developing a comprehensive plan for dealing with existing illegal immigrants, an outlook largely unchanged over the past five years. Similarly, 53% now say it is extremely important that government address the border issues this year, compared with 43% rating the need to address the status of current illegal immigrants this highly. Concerns about both issues have increased over the past year.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 9-12, 2011, with a random sample of 1,020 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.