Compromise on immigration reform faces an uncompromising partisan public

Compromise on immigration reform faces an uncompromising partisan public

81% of Democrats support DACA, while only 34% of Republicans do the same

Americans – especially Republicans – expect immigration reform legislation this year, but immigration is not a subject where the necessary compromises will be easy. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, Republicans and Democrats express completely different views about immigrants, legal and illegal, including those brought to the United States as children. They also are divided about the kind of country the United States should be.

Even something the President has described as a “bill of love” – the authorization for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which would restore a program he rescinded by executive order last year – gets distinctly different reactions from Republicans and Democrats. Despite the President’s expressed concern for “Dreamers,” a majority of Republicans oppose the extension. 

[The poll was conducted before the immigration meeting Tuesday between the President and members of Congress. But most Americans think Mr. Trump cares little about the Dreamers; 70% say the President cares “not much” or “not at all” about the needs and problems of the Dreamers. Just 7% think he cares “a lot.”] 

Republicans also diverge from Democrats and independents on the question of building a wall on the US border with Mexico, something the President has described as a way of insuring border security. Fewer expect Congress will authorize the wall or give legal status to the “Dreamers” that a DACA bill would provide than think there will be some kind of immigration reform legislation. 

Americans of every political stripe agree the country is a national of immigrants, and that the words at the base of the Statue of Liberty (“…Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…,” a poem by Emma Lazarus) apply – but only in the past. Partisan views of how immigration affects the country today differ dramatically. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats think immigration makes the country better off; a plurality of Republicans believe immigration makes the country worse off. 

The parties divide on both legal and illegal immigration. The “pathway to citizenship” that has been proposed as one way of dealing with illegal immigrants now in this country is accepted by Democrats, and rejected by Republicans. A majority of Republicans would require illegal immigrants to leave the U.S. 

One in four Americans say they know someone who is an illegal immigrant. But knowing an illegal immigrant personally doesn’t change partisan minds. Republicans who know an illegal immigrant and those who do not want to see illegal immigrants deported. Democrats who know an illegal immigrant and those who do not would like to see a pathway to citizenship.

Republicans also are more likely than Democrats to want to decrease legal immigration (and the President has proposed ending several legal means of immigrant entry, like the visa lottery program). 43% of Republicans want to decrease legal immigration, and just 14% would increase it. Among Democrats, 35% favor an increase in legal immigration, and 14% a decrease.

Republicans also aren’t sure a diverse country – which immigration creates – is a good thing. Two out of three Democrats believe a diverse society makes the U.S. a better place to live. Just 21% of Republicans think this, and one in three Republicans say it makes the country a worse place to live. 

Read more topline and table results here

Image: Getty