PRINCETON, NJ -- At least two-thirds of Americans favor each of five specific measures designed to address immigration issues -- ranging from 68% who would vote for increased government spending on security measures and enforcement at U.S. borders, to 85% who would vote for a requirement that employers verify the immigration status of all new hires. More than seven in 10 would vote for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants now living in this country.
Slightly more than seven in 10 favor a law that would track the departures of foreigners who have come into the country and one that would increase the number of visas for immigrants with science and technology skills.
The debate over passage of new immigration reform legislation is heating up ahead of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address next week, in which he is expected to push for a number of changes in the ways the U.S. deals with immigration. Obama is meeting with leaders in the White House on Tuesday to discuss legislation. Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is presenting his ideas on immigration on Tuesday in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute, and both Senate and House leaders are working on immigration reform measures. Democrats and Republicans appear to be in general agreement on doing something about immigration, but -- as is usually the case in Washington -- the two sides differ on some of the specifics.
The results of Gallup's referendum-format question that was included in Gallup Daily tracking on Jan. 30-31 show that the American public strongly supports all of the five changes tested. Some Republican lawmakers have argued that border security measures should be put in place first before the "pathway to citizenship" laws are changed, but Americans give roughly equal support to both.
Republicans and Democrats Differ in Relative Support for Immigration Measures
While majorities of Republicans, independents, and Democrats would vote for each of the five immigration proposals, these partisan groups do show some differences in levels of support for each.
Republicans are more widely in favor than independents or Democrats of laws that would require employers to verify the immigration status of new hires, and that would increase spending on border security. Democrats are more widely in favor of a law that would provide a pathway to legal residency and citizenship for undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S. and a law that would provide additional visas for immigrants who have needed technology and science skills. The partisan differences in support for tracking the departures of foreigners coming into the country are smaller.
Although elected officials and party leaders in Washington continue to disagree on the relative emphasis that should be given to each of a number of approaches to the immigration situation, it is clear that significant majorities of Americans would vote "for" five differing approaches that range from a pathway to citizenship to more spending on border security.
This wide range of agreement doesn't mean immigration is the public's top priority, of course. In Gallup's January update on Americans' perceptions of the most important problem facing the country, immigration constituted only 3% of all mentions, dwarfed by concerns about the economy, the federal deficit, and government dysfunction. But if these immigration proposals were put to a national vote, Americans would most likely vote "yes" on all five.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 30-31, 2013, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,019 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 of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cell phone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phones 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 to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
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.