PRINCETON, NJ -- A majority of Americans would vote for each of six different policy changes that Congress is considering as part of a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Support ranges from a high of 87% for a multifaceted pathway to citizenship that includes a long waiting period, taxes and a penalty, background checks, and learning English, to a low of 53% for a law that would vary the number of immigrants the U.S. lets into the country, depending on economic conditions.
Over three-quarters of Americans support four of the six proposals in the June 15-16 Gallup survey. In addition to the pathway for citizenship, increased border security wins broad public support, as do a proposal that would allow engineers and scientists who earn graduate degrees in the U.S. to remain in the country and work, and legislation that would require business owners to check the immigration status of any employee they hire.
Fewer Americans -- although still a majority -- would vote for a law allowing a business to hire an immigrant for an open position after unsuccessfully searching for an American willing to do the job.
Democrats and Republicans Agree on Many Proposals
Five of the six immigration policy measures receive majority support from Democrats, independents, and Republicans, despite the intense partisan wrangling in Congress over immigration reform. The exception is the proposal to vary the number of immigrants allowed into the country based on the economy, which Democrats and independents generally favor but falls short of majority Republican support.
The largest difference between Democrats' and Republicans' views is found on the proposed measure requiring employers to check the status of employees they hire: 90% of Republicans support this, compared with 74% of Democrats -- a 16-percentage-point gap. Further, while 81% of Democrats support increasing the resources provided to the Border Patrol, Republicans, at 95%, support it almost universally.
The U.S. Senate is considering an immigration reform bill this week, and supporters hope that the Senate and the House will pass it, and that President Barack Obama will then sign it into law. Because many high-profile Republicans, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Arizona Sen. John McCain, have signed on to the effort and made passage of immigration reform a priority, the bill's chances of passage are greater. Immigration had been a lower-priority issue over the last several years after a bipartisan deal supported by President George W. Bush failed in Congress in 2007.
A majority of Americans support each of six different immigration reform proposals when asked about them individually in a referendum format. However -- as was seen in the debate over the Affordable Care Act -- support for proposed legislation as a whole and support for its constituent parts can sometimes differ. Therefore, although Americans' widespread support for the six immigration proposals seems to suggest they would favor the type of bill the Senate is currently debating, this may not necessarily be the case.
Additionally, controversies in Congress have arisen not just over the bill's specific provisions, but also over the order in which the provisions become law, with some legislators insisting that the border security goals must be reached before other components of the bill kick in.
Regardless, immigration is not a high priority for Americans. Six percent say immigration is the nation's most important problem, putting it seventh on the list of specific problems facing the country. And when Americans were asked in a May Gallup poll about a list of 12 priorities for the president and Congress, they ranked reforming immigration last.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 15-16, 2013, with a random sample of 1,015 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 ±3 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% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cellphone 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.
View methodology, full question results, and trend data.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.