90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Survey: Most Americans Still Want Pathway To Citizenship

The National Domestic Workers Alliance, the National People's Action and the National Day Labor Organizing Network hold a rally calling for the end of deportations of undocumented immigrants in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. on April 28, 2014. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

The National Domestic Workers Alliance, the National People’s Action and the National Day Labor Organizing Network hold a rally calling for the end of deportations of undocumented immigrants in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. on April 28, 2014. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

A new survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution finds that 62 percent of Americans favor giving undocumented immigrants a way to become citizens.

An additional 17 percent said that undocumented immigrants should be able to become legal residents but not full citizens, and 19 percent said they should be deported.

Robert P. Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute, discusses the survey findings with Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson.

Guest

Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

Well, here in the U.S. there is a new survey out today that finds 62 percent of Americans support a pathway to citizenship for the country's undocumented immigrants. The survey by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution comes at a critical time because experts say if Congress doesn't act on immigration reform this summer, the issue is dead for the year.

Robert Jones is a co-author of the survey. He's chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute. And he's with us from the Brookings Institution's studio in Washington. Robert, welcome.

ROBERT JONES: Hi. Thanks to be here - thanks for having me.

HOBSON: Well, you surveyed about 1,500 Americans and found, as we said, 62 percent favor a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in this country. Tell us more about what you found.

JONES: Yeah. Well, one thing that's unique about this survey is that we actually called back a number of Americans that we had surveyed last year. So we actually have a panel callback so we can assess how views have changed over time.

So this year we found, as you said, 62 percent of the country says that we should allow immigrants in the country illegally to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements. We actually had a three-part question. The other two, only 17 percent said allow them to become permanent legal residents but not citizens. And finally, 19 percent said identify and deport them.

And what's remarkable, given that we've had kind of ups and downs in the legislative action on this issue, really is that we see absolutely solid support across the last year - no change at all. Last year the number was 63 percent support a path to citizenship, this year 62 percent. And those numbers are statistically equivalent.

HOBSON: But it doesn't appear to have been enough last year - who knows what will happen this year - to convince Republicans, especially in Congress, to go along with some sort of immigration reform that does provide a pathway to citizenship.

JONES: Yeah, it's interesting. The politics are clearly more complicated than the public opinion. I mean, you know, even if Congress is having difficulty moving here, we certainly find that everyday Americans are largely in agreement on the issue. One other thing to say is that it actually crosses party lines here in the public opinion data. So we have, you know, 70 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of Independents, and even the slim majority of Republicans, 51 percent, supporting a path to citizenship.

HOBSON: Well, and we asked on our Facebook page if people support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Jonathan Marr (ph) said, absolutely yes. Edward Azadecks Thomas (ph) says he supports deportation. He says, if we are to reward people for doing the wrong thing, what message does that send? And as you said, 19 percent of the people that you surveyed want to see illegal immigrants deported.

Is there a geographical region where those people are coming from? Are they from all of the country and all political streams?

JONES: Yeah. Well, you know, we see some regional variances but not really that pronounced. I mean, the variances, they're a little bigger by party. So for example, Republicans are much more likely - 30 percent of Republicans favor a deportation compared to only 11 percent of Democrats. So there are some partisan differences here. But still, the weight of opinion is clearly on a path to citizenship.

HOBSON: Now, your survey also looked at how Americans view the economic impact of undocumented immigrants - whether they are making it easier for Americans to get jobs or harder, or they have a positive benefit or not. What did you find?

JONES: Right. Well, this is one of the key-related questions is, you know, whether there's this relationship - or how tight the relationship is between perceived either economic threats or even cultural threats of newer immigrants coming in the country. And what we actually find is on both fronts, Americans are actually viewing immigrants a little more positively than they were a year ago.

So for example, a year ago, a majority of Americans said - 56 percent said that illegal immigrants hurt the economy by driving down wages for many Americans. Only 36 percent said help the economy by providing low-cost labor. But this year that negative perception has dropped by 10 points.

So only 46 percent of Americans today say that illegal immigrants mostly hurt the economy by driving down wages for Americans. So today Americans are divided, whereas a year ago they were clearly on the side of believing the immigrants hurt the economy.

HOBSON: Robert, we're five months away now from the midterm elections - actually less than five months at this point. What are people seeing when it comes to how important this issue is going to be for candidates who are up for election this year?

JONES: Yeah. Well, I think it's a mixed picture. I think two things are true at the same time in the survey. So we see this broad support that we've been talking about. There's also been a little bit of an uptick in trust of the Democratic Party as the party most trusted to handle the issue.

But we had - more to your point. We had a question about candidates in the 2014 elections. And here we found actually that opposing a path to citizenship is actually more of a liability than an asset for candidates in the 2014 election. So by a three to one margin, American voters say they'd be less likely to support a candidate who opposes a path to citizenship than one who supports it.

HOBSON: And we've got President Obama who has of course come out and said he wants comprehensive immigration reform. But many say he's the deporter-in-chief. He's deporting more illegal immigrants than his predecessors. How's he viewed in your survey?

JONES: Yeah. Well, it's interesting. So again, two things have happened here. One thing to say is that Obama's job approval rating has dropped fairly steadily over the last year. And one place where that's happened fairly precipitously is actually among Latinos.

So Latinos are the most likely to know, for example, that deportations have increased. Most Americans, in fact, don't know that deportations have increased during the Obama administration. Latinos are the most likely to know that. And also President Obama's job performance rating has dropped nearly 20 points over the last year among Latinos.

HOBSON: Robert Jones is chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute. He's co-author of the new survey finding that Americans do overwhelmingly support a pathway to citizenship for the country's illegal immigrants. We've got a link to that at our website hereandnow.org. Robert, thanks for joining us.

JONES: Oh, thanks for having me.

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:

Well, we've got a little more later today on All Things Considered on a number of stories, including the fact that veteran service organizations say that the Department of Veterans Affairs is underfunded. But VA officials often tell Congress they have enough money.

So what's the link between the VA's budget and that horrible scandal regarding veterans being put on endless wait lists? That's later today on All Things Considered. You're listening to HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Rick

    The survey should also ask:
    1. How would you feel if an immigrant took YOUR job?
    2. How much of your tax dollars should be spent to feed, house, clothe, educate, and provide medical care for the millions of illegal immigrants that are pouring in?
    3. Should the Obama Admin continue to only enforce the laws they like? Should the border be wide open to anyone who wants to come here?
    4. Should thousands of illegal immigrants who committed serious crimes be deported, or just released back into the US, as Obama has recently done?
    5. Should people who broke the law and came here illegally be rewarded with citizenship, in front of other people who have been waiting decades to come here legally?

  • Frog

    So this story interested me. I was particularly interested in how the public surveyed on border security in regards to immigration reform. So I did a search on the word “border” on the full survey. Guess what? It comes up with zero matches. Zero matches?! For a survey entitled: “What Americans Want From Immigration Reform in 2014″ that doesn’t mention or poll border security is pretty pathetic. This is EXACTLY what some of us fear. Immigration reform has NOTHING to do with fixing the problem of a porous border. In fact, the survey writers don’t even think its a problem! Nope, immigration reform is ONLY about unlimited amnesty.

    Then I notice another one of the authors of the survey is that great “statistician” E.J. Dionne. Then it makes sense. This wasn’t meant to be a comprehensive survey. This was meant to be a political advertisement. Furthermore, if this was a survey put out by a conservative pundit like Bill O’Reilly or the Koch brothers, H&N would have let us know. We should be informed if a liberal pundit like E.J. Dionne is doing a survey like this, too.

    • S David H de Lorge

      But apparently they did let us know. How else would you know?

      • Frog

        Because I don’t get all my information from H&N.

        • S David H de Lorge

          Me neither. So how did you know? Apparently it was here that you “…notice another one of the authors…”.

          • Frog

            H&N didn’t link to EJ Dionne or mention EJ Dionne as an author – who was by far the most famous of the authors…someone we might know. Is your point that, if you can find it on the internet then you were told about it?

          • S David H de Lorge

            No. I thought that you learned it by reading the H&N story. I guess having to follow one of their links qualifies as their leaving it out of their story, and you had to start looking elsewhere anyway. So I guess I misread your meaning when you wrote “Then I notice…”. Usually when I say I “notice” stuff, it’s among the things we’re all looking at/listening to, not somewhere out there.

            Now I have to wonder how prominent, in conducting the polling survey itself, EJ Dionne was among cited authors. Or was he among authors of journalistic sources of discussions of the survey? Or what difference it makes. Did he create the poll questions and select the people queried? Was his name among several (how many?) listed as authors of the poll and its report, or was his name among those listed (how many?) as journalists reporting the survey results? I can’t tell from your criticism, and I’m not investing in following those links myself.

  • M S

    Only with Latinos, would a President actually loose points for implementing the law. The invasion continues…

  • Kathy

    The politics of citizenship amaze me. I grew up in a conservative “cloth coat Republican” family and people who came here seeking citizenship were considered the good immigrants, but if an immigrant didn’t want citizenship and just came here as a guestworker that was considered a massively bad thing.

    But that was when conservatism measured itself on patriotism and Americanism rather than nationalism and xenophobia.

    • M S

      What did your family think about those who broke the law?

  • nicalex5

    This opinion has been shaped by an onslaught of emotional media coverage focusing on suffering women and children. NPR et al have been playing to their constituency-there own pathway to there personal careers. People have successfully confused support for sovereignty issues and racism. I’m a ‘Latino’ who lived through the last amnesty and its a self perpetuating disaster.

    • Rick

      They haven’t had Jorge Ramos on for a couple of days to promote an illegal invasion of our country by “latinos”. I predict that he will be on the show tomorrow.

  • S David H de Lorge

    “Most Americans” are being tyrannized by a radical minority. Many of those draw their strong convictions from paranoia, ignorance, and hatred. Others, simply from a fuzzy understanding of the problem and its possible solutions.

    Oppose this tyranny of ignorance and flawed thinking.

    • M S

      Who is this radical minority? The 1%? The extreme right-wing? The extreme left-wing? Illegal immigrants and La Raza? Please be more specific.

      • S David H de Lorge

        Sorry to have been so unclear. The minority I referred to was the Americans not included in the “Most Americans” featured in the title. Beyond that, I was clear enough for my purpose, granted that the minority are not a unitary group which can be captured with a single label or stereotype. Therefore, I regret writing it in such a way as to suggest that they are all radicals. Some are just fuzzy thinkers.

    • nicalex5

      Which side is this? Hard to tell. Because oth than in ‘Comments’ I hear only one point of view. Mexican activist have been threatening politicians with changing demographic patterns for years (therein the self perpetuating spiral you call paranoia). Try being a non-Spanish speaking Latino in LA and how ethnicity affects you working life. Asi es la cosa buey

      • S David H de Lorge

        Um, okay.

  • Independent

    Existing pathways to citizenship are available are they not so in a sense the question is a red herring. Reciprocity and comity with Mexican law?

    • Pleiades

      Most Americans are oblivious to the consequences of being caught without the right visa papers in Mexico or any location in Central America. it’s not pretty I assure you, and we as a nation should take our queue from those locations.

  • Frog

    Even MSNBC can’t hide it:

    “…there are rumors circulating throughout Latin America, particularly Central America, that if they come through and they give themselves up to U.S. customs and border patrol officials that they will be given some kind of immigration relief.”

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2014/06/10/la_times_columnist_increase_of_illegal_minors_crossing_border_due_to_amnesty_rumors.html

    • Pleiades

      This is a result of the potential passage of the “Dream Act” by the federal government or state governments. The simple fact is if you are here illlegally regardless of age, you should self-deport or be deported. Wading the Rio Bravo or jumping the border does not make you a citizen of the USA.

  • jmfay

    We loved Neal Conan so when you took his place; we figured we would give you a shot as we are a news junky. Though Jeremy asks decent questions usually; the fact that you did not do your homework on this topic; means we will be going to do something else when you come on from now on.

    The LA Times, The NY Times, Wash Post; etc have all debunked your “deporter in chief” because he was just playing a shell game when it came to who got deported. The fact is he has deported less people then Ford and thats going back a long time and before we had the amnesty in 1986.

    He has changed the people who get caught at the border to ICE custody so ICE can claim them; run them through the courts so they have a record now from BP custody. The interior has so little enforcement; illegals know once they are here; they are home free and Obama further released 36000 criminal illegal aliens (those with records) instead of deporting them.

    We can go on and on so we have to wonder why Jeremy could not be bothered to do his own homework? This information is in every news outlet in the country!!!

    Furthermore; if we had a Congress with backbone; illegals would have all been deported at the start of this recession and just think how much easier it would have been to recover from it when we didnt have to pay all the costs of illegals from education, to health care, etc and had our own people working instead of them.

    NO amnesty. NO work permits. NO nothing but deportation.

  • D Smith

    Non Partisan? Who are they kidding? An impressive sounding company name, leads people to drop their guard. This is at a time in American history when critical thinking skills are almost non existent in our culture, and it is now permeated in Relativism, Subjectivism, Secularism, Pluralism, Materialism etc. Perhaps even sadder is that people with theology degrees (don’t confuse them for Christian’s who have a Judeo Christian Worldview) run this company. Again do NOT confuse these “theology types with what one would find from Astute Christian Thinkers who bring a Biblical Worldview (Judeo Christian Worldview) with their presupposes, as well as the integrity required with that worldview. PRRI has a great “truth seeking sounding type of name”, but it sure looks like they are nothing, but a glorified opinion poll business. These wayward theological types seem to have no interest in seeking what is true, wisest, best etc. You can bet your they know how to frame questions, and know who to ask to push their worldview on an unsuspecting general public, and provide other wayward media outlets the “research” that they want to shove down the throats of the American people.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

August 21 21 Comments

The Challenges Of Recruiting An All-Volunteer Army

The Army is meeting its targets, but the man who runs recruiting says finding qualified candidates in the 17 to 24 age group can be difficult.

August 21 Comment

Syrian Clarinetist Finds A Home For His Music

"Does the clarinet stop a bullet or does it feed a child or does it rebuild a destroyed home?" Kinan Azmeh asks. "Of course it doesn't. But... it can inspire."

August 20 Comment

James Foley Remembered For His ‘Extraordinary Courage’

U.S. officials have confirmed the authenticity of a video showing the beheading of the American journalist.

August 20 7 Comments

L.A. Moves To Arrest Fewer Misbehaving Students

The change in the school district's policy is the culmination of a long fight by judges, government officials, advocates and attorneys.