Poll: Most Voters Won't Support Candidates Opposed to Immigration Reform

Image: Poll: Most Voters Won't Support Candidates Opposed to Immigration Reform

Tuesday, 10 Jun 2014 08:28 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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While Congress can’t seem to reach a consensus on how to tackle immigration reform, American voters are not waffling.

A recent poll conducted by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution finds that nearly two-thirds of registered voters – 62 percent – favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already living in the United States, while just 17 percent favor legal permanent-resident status, but not citizenship.

Even more striking is the fervor with which voters want to see Congress take action. More than half of the 1,538 voters surveyed – 53 percent – said they will be less likely to vote for a candidate opposed to giving illegal immigrants citizenship.

The issue could prove especially prickly for Republicans, because 51 percent of establishment members of the GOP support a path to citizenship, according to the poll, while just 37 percent of those aligned with the tea party feel the same way. The same number, 37 percent, support a policy that would identify and deport illegal immigrants.

Twenty-three percent of tea party-affiliated voters favor offering permanent legal resident status but stopping short of allowing those in the country illegally to become citizens.

A whopping 86 percent of tea party voters said they were "certain" to vote in the November midterms, presenting members of the GOP with a difficult course to navigate.

"The big takeaway is the clarity and consistency of support from the general public for a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally," Public Religion Research Institute CEO Robert P. Jones told The New York Times. "There is clearly a cost for politicians directly opposing immigration reform. That is not a long-term strategy for success for candidates on either side."

Religious affiliation is another key factor impacting attitudes about immigration reform, the survey found.

With the exception of white evangelicals, a majority religious groups across the board favor a path to citizenship. The breakdown is as follows: Catholics, 63 percent; minority Protestants, 62 percent; white Protestants, 58 percent. The religiously unaffiliated trumped the religious in their support. Sixty-eight percent want a path to citizenship. Just fewer than half – 48 percent – of white evangelical Protestants favor citizenship, an 8-point drop since March 2013.

Last year, the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill, but the House has failed to follow suit. While many key GOP leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, and Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, have said they favor tackling the issue, House Majority Leader  Eric Cantor and others don’t think it should be an all or nothing situation, according to The Huffington Post.

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