51% of Americans think illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay rather than be deported

Who cares about the “dreamers” – the illegal immigrants brought to this country as children, but kept from deportation by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program? The latest Economist/YouGov Poll suggests that despite concern about illegal immigration, most Americans do care about Dreamers, support the DACA program, and would choose legalization for all illegal immigrants over deportation.

More Americans say they personally care about the dreamers than say Congress or President Trump do. But that’s not true for Republicans. Nearly two-thirds overall say they care at least some for the young adults in the DACA program, compared with just half of Republicans. Republicans are more likely to say Congressional Republicans and President Trump care about the Dreamers than to say they personally do, or to believe Congressional Democrats do.

Immigration, both legal and illegal, is a more important issue to Republicans than to Democrats or independents. 13% of Republicans call immigration their most important issue, compared to 2% of Democrats and 8% of independents. 62% of Republicans call it a “very important” issue to them, while only four in ten Democrats and independents say it is. 

There is an enormous difference in the level of seriousness partisans give to the problem of illegal immigration nationally, but party differences shrink when people are asked about the situation in their own communities. For most, illegal immigration is not a major problem where they live. 34% say illegal immigration is a very serious problem in the country, but less than half that percentage (13%) say it is very serious in their own communities. 61% of Republicans judge illegal immigration as very serious nationally but just 22% say it is very serious where they live. 

The parties disagree on how to treat those in the US illegally. When forced to choose, Democrats and independents prioritize citizenship over deportation; most Republicans choose deportation. Republicans support a border wall, Democrats don’t. As for DACA itself, 78% of Democrats favor the program. By 53% to 38%, Republicans do not.

For Republicans, whether or not they know an illegal immigrant personally (and one in four do) makes little difference in their opinion on taking aggressive actions against illegal immigrants. For Democrats, personally knowing someone in the country illegally makes one more receptive to allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the US

Although Congressional DACA renewal remains in limbo, it continues to be in force through judicial actions. Americans generally think that those brought here illegally as children will be allowed to remain in the United States, and many think they will be able to become US citizens. That’s the case for Democrats, Republicans and independents. 

Republicans are even more likely than Democrats to believe the situation will be resolved in favor of the Dreamers.

Read more toplines and tables results here

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