Support for state action on immigration at 3-year low

William JordanUS Elections Editor
November 04, 2013, 5:39 PM GMT+0

Only 32% of Americans now think states should be allowed to set immigration policies, down from 48% in 2010.

Days after the state of Alabama agreed to permanently gut a controversial law cracking down on immigration, YouGov research shows that the public is increasingly doubtful that states should be able to make decisions about immigration policy at all.

The number of Americans who think states should be permitted to set their own policies when it comes to immigration is at its lowest in over three years, since YouGov first asked about the issue in mid-2010. Only a third of Americans now think states should have a hand in immigration policy, down from about half who thought so as recently as April 2012. At the same time, the number of Americans who think immigration is an issue to be handled by the federal government only is up 14 points from 2010, to 48%.

It's unclear what drove the dramatic shift in opinion, although in June 2012 three key provisions in a 2010 Arizona anti-immigration law were struck down by the US Supreme Court.

Despite the shift in opinion on states’ role in immigration policy, the issue remains divisive politically. While 64% of Democrats want only the federal government handling immigration, 54% of Republicans think statehouses should be able to set their own policies. Still, this marks a decrease in Republican support for state-issued policies from May 2010, when 72% supported them.

The number of Americans who see immigration as a serious problem in their local communities has also seen a decline over the years, although there has been an uptick in the last several months.

Today four in 10 Americans see immigration as a serious problem where they live, compared to about half (47%) who see it as a minor or non-existent problem. In April 2009, an equal amount saw it as a serious problem as saw it as a non-serious one (47% in both cases).


Several state immigration policies have made national news in recent years. Some, like the policies California governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law, have introduced new protections for immigrants. Others, like Arizona’s or Alabama’s, which passed in 2011 but has mostly been gutted by court rulings, have sought to increase restrictions over federal standards and faced extended court battles.

And while the public tends to oppose state-issued immigration policy in principle, YouGov’s latest poll finds that some the specific policies pursued in Alabama’s law are relatively popular. One of the most controversial provisions of the law, requiring schools to check the immigration status of students, actually receives some of the most support.

The recent settlement between the state of Alabama and a civil rights group over the law did away with many of its key provisions, including the requirement on pubilc schools.

The findings come as President Obama renews a push for comprehensive immigration reform, touting a bipartisan bill that passed the Senate in May. The bill remains stalled in the House, where it faces Republican opposition for its embrace of a ‘path to citizenship’ for illegal immigrants currently living in the United States.

Full poll results can be found here.

Image: Google.

Join YouGov today! Your views can shape the news...