Poll: Republican voters back immigration reform?

While immigration reform may not be high on voters’ lists of priorities heading into the 2014 midterms, a new survey of a variety of critical states shows that Americans are predisposed to support efforts to repair the nation’s immigration system.

The Republican firm Harper Polling’s automated survey of between 500 and 855 likely voters in 26 states (Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin) shows voters believe the system is broken and in need of repair.

86 percent of self-described Republicans and 79 percent of independents in those 26 states said that the immigration system is in need of fixing. Moreover, 79 percent of Republican respondents said that it was “important” for Congress to act on immigration reform this year. 53 percent of Republicans went a step further, saying that it was “very important.” 71 percent of Republicans said that they would support a candidate who backs immigration reform while only 15 percent of self-identified GOP voters said that they would not support a pro-reform candidate.

In worse news for opponents of immigration reform, voters do not believe that the argument that President Barack Obama would not enforce border security provisions in an immigration bill is a valid reason for opposing reform. 72 percent of all respondents said did not believe that concerns over enforcement of border security was a good reason for rejecting immigration reform, including a majority of Republicans and 69 percent of independents.

The Harper survey found that nearly two-thirds of all voters and 54 percent of self-identified Republicans support a pathway to legal status for illegal immigrants.

For those that think the crisis on the border has cooled Republican support for reform, this survey suggests otherwise. Among voters in Texas where the border crisis has been most acute, 84 percent of Republicans said that it was critical for Congress to reform the immigration system this year.

Half of Texas Republicans said they supported the “immigration standards” set by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), which would include increased border security and expanding visas for high-skilled workers and farm laborers. 40 percent of Texas Republicans, however, said that all illegal immigrants should be deported.

These results are similar to those in a nonpartisan survey conducted in June by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution. In that survey, 62 percent of all respondents supported a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the United States. Only 17 percent indicated support for legal status for illegal immigrants short of citizenship.

That poll did, however, identify a divide between Republicans – a majority of whom support immigration reform – and those who identify with the tea party. Only 37 percent of tea party conservative respondents said they support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented migrants.

The results of this Harper survey are shocking insofar as they do not appear to reflect the sentiments of the political commentariat. Analysts on the left and the right have proclaimed that the crisis on the border has eliminated the potential that an immigration reform bill will be passed by Congress this year.

June’s Brookings Institute poll provides a clue, however, as to why immigration reform will not pass the Congress anytime soon. According to that survey, 86 percent of tea party conservatives also said they were “certain” to vote in November.

The Harper survey was conducted for the Partnership for a New American Economy, the Business Roundtable, and the National Association of Manufacturers from June 22 to July 3 and has margins of error ranging from 4.0 to 4.38 percent.