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Public Takes Softer Stance on Illegal Immigration

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Illegal immigration a serious problem, but support for deportation, wall drops

West Long Branch, NJ – Illegal immigration remains a widespread concern, but most of the American public, including Republicans, support proposals that would allow law-abiding immigrants to stay in the country. The Monmouth University Poll finds that support for severe policy measures on immigration – such as deportation or a border wall – has declined over the past two years, although about one-fifth of Donald Trump’s base holds fast to a hardcore stance on this issue. On a completely different topic, the poll also finds that the federal government gets generally good marks for how it handled the recent hurricanes that hit the U.S.

Most Americans see illegal immigration as a serious problem for the country – including 43% who say it is very serious and 30% who say it is somewhat serious. Another 17% say it is not too serious and 10% say it is not at all serious. These results are largely unchanged from a Monmouth poll taken two years ago when 45% said illegal immigration was a very serious problem and 30% said it was somewhat serious. Now, as then, it is more likely to be seen as a very serious problem by Republicans (57%) than it is by independents (43%) and Democrats (30%).

While most Americans are concerned about illegal immigration, few are convinced that it has a dire impact on the national economy or in their own lives. Just 23% feel that illegal immigrants take jobs away from American citizens while 59% say they generally do jobs that Americans don’t want.  This finding is largely unchanged from 2015 when the results for these two positions stood at 26% and 59%, respectively.

Few Americans (19%) feel that their own personal way of life is under threat from illegal immigrants from Mexico, which is a drop from 28% who said the same one year ago. The decline in this sentiment has come largely from Republicans – going from 51% who felt their own way of life was threatened in 2016 to 31% who feel this way today. There has been a much smaller shift in this opinion among independents (from 30% to 21%) and no shift among Democrats (from 9% to 8%).

“The rhetoric on illegal immigration may remain red-hot, but many Americans, especially Republicans, have shifted to a more moderate position since last year’s presidential campaign,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Most Americans continue to feel that illegal immigrants who have lived and worked in the U.S. for at least two years should be given a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status (76%). Just 19% feel these immigrants should be deported back to their native countries. Support for deportation has declined from 27% two years ago. Again, the biggest drop in support has come from Republican partisans – going from 43% in 2015 to 30% now. There has been a smaller decline in support for deportation among independents (from 27% to 20%) and Democrats (from 14% to 10%).

A major component of Pres. Trump’s immigration policy agenda has also seen a significant drop in support. Just 35% of Americans currently favor building a wall along the Mexican border. Back in September 2015, nearly half (48%) supported this plank of the Trump agenda. On this policy, the decline in support has come from across the political spectrum, including Republicans (from 73% support in 2015 to 65% today), independents (from 47% to 35%), and especially Democrats (from 31% to 10%).

More recently, national attention has focused on the fate of “Dreamers” – illegal immigrants who were brought to this country with their families when they were children. One third of Americans support – 18% strongly and 15% somewhat – returning these immigrants to their birth countries and making them re-apply for entry to the U.S., while 6-in-10 oppose this – 41% strongly and 20% somewhat. Support for returning “Dreamers” to their native countries stands at 51% of Republicans, 34% of independents and 17% of Democrats.

On the other hand, 7-in-10 Americans support – 46% strongly and 24% somewhat – allowing these “Dreamers” to automatically become U.S. citizens as long as they don’t have a criminal record, while just over 1-in-4 oppose it – 17% strongly and 11% somewhat. Support for this type of amnesty program stands at 56% of Republicans, 68% of independents and 86% of Democrats.

“While an outright amnesty proposal has not been put on the table, these poll results suggest there is widespread support for allowing Dreamers to stay in the country. The question for Donald Trump is whether the small number of Americans who are strongly opposed to any perceived softening on immigration policy would desert him,” said Murray.

Monmouth pollsters used the questions on deporting illegal immigrants who have been working in the country and illegal immigrants from Mexico posing a threat to one’s way of life as proxies for how central these issues are to Trump supporters’ political beliefs. Among those who voted for the president last year, 21% take a hardcore position that illegal immigration poses a threat to them personally and illegal immigrants in the workforce should be deported. Another 32% agree with one of these two positions. Nearly half of Trump voters (47%), though, disagree with both statements – neither seeing illegal immigrants as a threat nor supporting their deportation.

 “One-fifth of Trump supporters appear to take an uncompromising, visceral stance on illegal immigration. That amounts to about 7 or 8 percent of the entire U.S. public. But there’s a real question of how many would actually revolt against Trump if he softens his stance on some aspects of his immigration policy. The president has been successful at maintaining close to a 40 percent job approval rating through his first tumultuous months in office. To declare that this one issue is the singular litmus test that would cut into that support ignores Trump’s resilience in holding his base through his rhetoric, even when that message may be contradicted by certain actions,” said Murray.

The Monmouth University Poll also asked Americans to rate the federal government’s response to the recent hurricanes that hit Texas, Florida and surrounding states. Overall, 52% of the public say that the feds did a good job dealing with these storms and just 9% say they did a bad job, with 38% offering no opinion. Pres. Trump is seen slightly less positively, with 43% saying he did a good job handling the hurricanes and 19% saying he did a bad job, while 38% offer no opinion. Among residents of Texas and Florida, though, 57% say the federal government did a good job and 54% say the president also did a good job. Conversely, 12% of residents in these two states say the feds did a bad job and 24% say the same about Trump.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from September 15 to 19, 2017 with 1,009 adults in the United States.  The results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

 

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS                                                                        

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)       

 

[Q1-11 previously released.]

 

12.   How serious a problem do you think the issue of illegal immigration is for the United States right now – very, somewhat, not too, or not at all serious?

43%     Very serious

30%     Somewhat serious

17%     Not too serious

10%     Not at all serious

  1%     (VOL) Don’t know

 

13.   Do you favor or oppose building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico?

35%     Favor

60%     Oppose

  5%     (VOL) Don’t know

 

14.   Do you feel your own personal way of life is or is not under threat from illegal immigrants from Mexico?

19%     Is

76%     Is not

  3%     (VOL) Depends

  2%     (VOL) Don’t know

 

15.   Do you think illegal immigrants coming to this country today take jobs away from American citizens, or do they mostly take jobs Americans don’t want? 

23%     Take jobs away from American citizens

59%     Take jobs Americans don’t want

12%     (VOL) Both

  5%     (VOL) Don’t know

 

16.   If you had to choose, what do you think should happen to most illegal immigrants who have lived and worked in the U.S. for at least two years?They should be given a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status - OR - They should be deported back to their native country? [CHOICES WERE ROTATED]

76%     They should be given a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status

19%     They should be deported back to their native country

  5%     (VOL) Don’t know

 

17.   Some people illegally immigrated to the U.S. with their families when they were children. Would you support or oppose making these immigrants return to their birth country and re-apply for entry to the U.S.?  [Do you support/oppose this strongly or just somewhat?]

18%     Strongly support

15%     Somewhat support

20%     Somewhat oppose

41%     Strongly oppose

  5%     (VOL) Don’t know

 

18.   And would you support or oppose allowing people who illegally immigrated when they were children to automatically become U.S. citizens as long as they don’t have a criminal record?  [Do you support/oppose this strongly or just somewhat?]

46%     Strongly support

24%     Somewhat support

11%     Somewhat oppose

17%     Strongly oppose

  2%     (VOL) Don’t know

 

On another topic,

 

19.   Do you think the federal government did a good job or bad job dealing with the hurricanes that recently hit Texas, Florida and surrounding states, or do you have no opinion on this? 

52%     Good job

  9%     Bad job

38%     No opinion

 

20.   Do you think President Trump did a good job or bad job dealing with the hurricanes that recently hit Texas, Florida and surrounding states, or do you have no opinion on this? 

43%     Good job

19%     Bad job

38%     No opinion

 

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from September 15 to 19, 2017 with a national random sample of 1,009 adults age 18 and older, in English. This includes 505 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 504 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone. Telephone numbers were selected through random digit dialing and landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. Final sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information. Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and SSI (RDD sample). For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design).  Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and results by key demographic groups.

Download this Poll Report with all tables

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Monmouth University Poll

West Long Branch, NJ 07764
www.monmouth.edu/polling
Follow on Twitter: @MonmouthPoll

Patrick Murray

732-263-5858 (office)
pdmurray@monmouth.edu
Follow on Twitter: @PollsterPatrick

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