American voters says they would prefer President Barack Obama work with Congress rather than use executive action to address the illegal immigration crisis at the border, according to a detailed new opinion poll on immigration, illegal immigrants, and the state of the American worker. The poll, conducted by veteran Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, also found that Americans disapprove of Obama’s record on immigration. And as one Republican aide on Capitol Hill describes it, the results of the poll are an “utter repudiation” of the Senate’s Gang of 8 immigration bill.
The survey of 1,001 likely voters found that 61 percent say they disapprove of the president’s job on immigration, while 32 percent say they approve. That’s worse than his overall job approval rating (57 percent disapprove, 40 percent approve). Furthermore, 74 percent say they would rather Obama work with Congress to change the country’s immigration policy, while only 21 percent say they support his doing so “on his own” through executive action. The numbers on executive action versus working with Congress are lopsided among both conservatives and moderates, with only self-professed liberals favoring a “go-it-alone” path on immigration. Obama has suggested he may act on his own on immigration after the comprehensive reform bill he supported has stalled in the House of Representatives.
The poll discovered a heightened interest in immigration as a political issue since the news of thousands of illegal immigrants crossing the southern border began dominating headlines this summer. Eighteen percent now say it’s the issue they most care about, with 39 percent saying they put it among their top 3 issues.
So beyond the process, what do Americans say they want Washington to do on immigration policy? One proposal, described by Conway as the House Republicans’ “three-pronged approach”, earned 58 percent support from those polled. The proposal was outlined in the poll question as providing “extra funding for immigration enforcement, making it easier to return young illegal immigrants to their home countries, and restricting the president’s ability to legalize illegal immigrants on his own.” The proposal earned 70 percent support from Republicans, but 57 percent of independents and 54 percent of Democrats said they also supported those ideas. (The question itself did not identify the proposal as coming from Republicans.)
On the issue of the thousands of unaccompanied minors who have illegally crossed the border, 65 percent of likely voters say they support sending them back to their home countries, with just 22 percent saying they support relocating those minors elsewhere in the United States. What about illegal immigrants in general living in the United States? An overwhelming number, 70 percent, say illegal immigrants should be “encouraged to return to their home countries”, while just 20 percent say they should be given legal status. The numbers are even starker among those who list immigration among their top three issues (75 percent want illegal immigrants to return to their home countries) and those who list immigration as their number one issue (80 percent).
Opponents of the Senate’s Gang of 8 immigration bill are likely to find in the poll evidence that political support for the bill and its principles is weak. One of the chief arguments against the Gang of 8 bill is that it would not only provide legal status for illegal immigrants already living here but would additionally expand the guest-worker visa program, allowing workers of various skill levels to come the United States legally and work for lower wages. But Conway’s poll finds little interest among likely voters for proposals that would bring in more foreign workers during a period of economic stagnation.
There’s broad support for the idea, for instance, that American companies should raise wages to attract more domestic workers (75 percent support) rather than fill those jobs at lower wages with immigrant workers (8 percent support). Those numbers are largely consistent across party affiliations, as well. Furthermore, 81 percent say that Americans who are out of work should “have the opportunity to do the jobs that are currently done by illegal immigrants.”
“These results turn the often-heard statement that illegal immigrants do the jobs that Americans won’t do on its head,” writes Conway in her memo. Consider those results alongside those from a recent Reuters poll on immigration, which found 63 percent of those polled say immigrants place a burden on the economy.
Here are some more findings from the poll, according to Conway:
◦ 75% want more enforcement of current immigration laws, including 63% of Hispanics and over 50% of Democrats. Although the administration and their media allies have pushed Obama’s deportation record, few Americans are buying the idea that Obama is enforcing immigration law strongly.
◦ A majority name immigration as the most or one of the three most important issues to their vote this fall.
◦ While President Obama is underwater in his job approval (57%-40%), an even greater margin (two-thirds) of Americans disapprove of his handling of immigration. This includes one of his key constituencies, Hispanics, who disapprove of his job performance on immigration by 55% to 39%.
◦ Neither Republicans nor Democrats are viewed as doing a good job on immigration, a clear product of the GOP’s lack of coherent immigration message. That also means that neither party currently “owns” the issue. The current combination of children-at-the-border-crisis and an increasingly weakened President Obama is awakening a sleeping giant on an issue long eclipsed by the economy and healthcare.
You can read the whole memo here.
© 2014 Weekly Standard LLC. Reprinted with permission.