Many Support DREAM Act Goals, Pathway To Citizenship

November 28, 2012, 12:30 PM GMT+0

(Week of 11/23/2012) Americans are increasingly supportive of granting legal status to those who came to the country illegally as children. The latest Economist/YouGov Poll shows more support for DREAM Act provisions than there was in June — with most of that increase coming from Republicans.

Many have blamed the GOP November losses on the party’s harsh immigration stands, including opposition to the DREAM Act, a position that may have alienated the growing number of Hispanic voters. And at least some Republicans have softened their stand on this since June. Five months ago, only 29% of Republicans were willing to grant legal residency to those who entered the country illegally as children if they go to college, and nearly two-thirds opposed it. Now, support has increased eleven points among Republicans.

There is far more support among Republicans for granting legal status to those who came illegally as children if they serve in the military. Overall, 64% of GOP adults support this. Republican support has increased 16 points since June, when that party’s identifiers divided evenly on the question. Now, Republican support for those who serve in the military is slightly higher than Democratic support. Democratic support has moved little in the last few months.

Americans are not necessarily open to more immigration, and there is still a negative view about the impact of illegal immigration on American society. Just 24% think illegal immigrants mostly contribute to society; more than twice as many say they are mostly a drain. On this question, Republicans and Democrats take opposing views. A plurality of Democrats think illegal immigrants contribute to society; 71% of Republicans think they are a drain.

However, close to half of Americans are willing to support some sort of pathway to citizenship—a legal way for illegal immigrants now in the United States to become citizens. 37% oppose this.

As in June, the parties differ dramatically. Republicans oppose a path to citizenship 53% to 38%. Democrats favor one 59% to 22%. Clear majorities of those with family incomes over $100,000, college graduates, and Hispanics would like to see some kind of pathway to citizenship.

The June poll was conducted just as the Supreme Court was about to rule on Arizona’s immigration law, which, among other provisions, would have allowed police to check the immigration status of anyone they stopped for other reasons. In late June, more than four in ten Americans thought the states should be able to make their own immigration laws, with an equal number wanting only the federal government to set immigration policy. Now the balance has shifted, with more wanting to limit immigration policy to the federal government only.

Republicans still want the states to set immigration policies, too, though their support for state action has dropped 19 points, from 70% in June to 51% now.

Immigration is viewed as the country’s most important issue by just 2%, but it isn’t an area where the President receives especially high marks. Only 37% approve of how he is handling this issue, while 50% disapprove. At 45%, less than half of Hispanics, most of whom voted for the President earlier this month, approve of his handling of this issue.

Overall, the President receives a 51% approval rating from the public. 46% disapprove.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here

Photo source: Press Association