Two polls show majority support for pathway to citizenship — and tougher border security
posted at 8:41 am on July 18, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
What, no poll on whether mass murderer Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a total dreamboat? No, both the Washington Post/ABC series and the National Journal/UT poll continues its focus on immigration policy as the House debates whether to debate it at all. Let’s start with WaPo/ABC, where the bill’s major components are popular enough across the board to make an argument for a loose consensus:
A big majority of Americans supports a Senate-approved surge of manpower and fencing along the U.S. Mexico border, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. But some recoil at the $46 billion price tag, highlighting deep partisan disagreement about whether the heightened effort is worth the cost.
The second major component of the Senate bill also wins majority support. Some 55 percent support a “pathway to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants, nearly identical to three recent Post-ABC polls asking the same question about “illegal immigrants.”
On Tuesday President Obama demanded once again that Congress include a way for undocumented immigrants to become citizens, a sticking point for House Republicans who want to address border security first. The poll finds continued hesitance among their base: 58 percent of Republicans oppose a path to citizenship, while most independents (55 percent) and Democrats (69 percent) support it.
An even larger majority, 64 percent, support adding 20,000 border agents and 700 miles of fence along the border with Mexico. But support drops by 11 percentage points, to 53 percent, among the random half of respondents who were asked the same question but also told the measures came “at a cost of 46 billion dollars.” (Respondents were randomly assigned to hear the proposal with or without the cost; results for each group are reported separately).
Of course, the cost is high, but border security is one of the actual and explicit duties of the federal government. To put that cost in perspective, $46 billion comes to slightly over half of the sequester each year, and about 4.9% of this year’s estimated deficit. The cost gets spread out over several years, too, which that question doesn’t bother to explain.
Still, the numbers for each of the components are compelling. The pathway to citizenship has a 14-point gap at 55/41, with independent voters supporting it identically. Even 38% of Republicans support that component of the reform. Border security gets 2:1 support at 64/32, and a majority at 53/45 when costs are specified. Democrats support border security 56/40 without the costs, but fall to 43/53 with them; all other demos hold their support either way.
The NJ/UT poll shows stronger support for a tougher border-security provision, but overall support for passing the Senate bill in the House:
A strong majority of Americans, 59 percent, said they would like to see the House either pass the Senate’s immigration bill as is or pass a version with even tougher border-control measures, according to the latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll.
In contrast, only one in five voters said they prefer that the House pass no immigration legislation at all, and only 13 percent said they want the House to strip the path to citizenship from the Senate’s bill.
In the survey, respondents were given four options for how the House should proceed on immigration. The two most popular answers were to pass the Senate bill with tougher border-enforcement provisions (30 percent) and to pass the Senate measure as is (29 percent). …
The trouble for Republicans is that passing immigration legislation without a path to citizenship was respondents’ least popular option across all age groups and income levels, among both men and women, in cities, suburbs, and rural areas.
The NJ/UT poll offered more choices to respondents, and the results showed an even greater consensus than first thought. A statistically identical ratio of Democrats, Republicans, and independents agree on one formulation — add tougher border-security provisions to the Senate bill and pass it. For Republicans, that gets 18% and 42% respectively for 60%, while Democrats go 37% and 22%, and independents 30% and 29%. However, no demographic even comes close to majority support for passing the Senate bill alone in its current state, not even the “nonwhites,” 29% of whom want tougher border-security provisions than the Senate bill currently has. The highest support the Senate-bill-alone option gets is 37% among college-age whites, five points higher than “nonwhites” and ten points above African-Americans.
For those who want the House to run out the clock, though, doing nothing is hardly popular, not even among Republicans. Only 16% of GOP voters want the House to do nothing. Oddly, the highest percentage (22%) for the do-nothing option come from African-Americans … and Democrats. The only option less popular than doing nothing is stripping the path to citizenship from any reform, which peaks at 16% among Republicans.
Neither poll asks the truly pertinent question about border security, though, which is that of trust. If the White House chooses not to enforce the law it demanded from Congress — ObamaCare and its mandates — then how can we trust them to enforce a border-security law, no matter how tough, that they will clearly despise?