Most Americans favor automatic citizenship to people with one American parent

The President’s closing message before the midterm elections was all about immigration – and it was a message that divided Republicans from Democrats. For Republicans it has been the number one issue, combining the President’s desired border wall, the right of citizenship for those born on US soil, and how to deal with those seeking asylum as part of the Central American caravan now in Mexico, still a month or more away from reaching the United States border with Mexico. 

The President’s campaign messages resonated with Republicans: immigration became the top issue for them in Election Day exit polls, nationally and in the states that cemented Senate control for the GOP. The latest Economist/YouGov Poll, conducted in the three days before the election, suggests that Republicans’ distinctive views about immigration may be based on their belief in different facts about it. 

The President’s proposed end to birthright citizenship, which he claims he can accomplish by executive order, demonstrates the political split. Two-thirds of Republicans oppose granting citizenship automatically to those to those born within US borders. More than a third oppose automatic citizenship even for those who have at least one parent who is already a citizen (that would, of course, mean that both former President Barack Obama and Senator Ted Cruz, with citizen mothers and non-citizen fathers, would not have automatically become US citizens at birth). 

Democrats (and independents to a lesser extent) support both options. And partisanship is more important than family history: Republicans who have at least one immigrant parent or grandparent oppose automatic citizenship for those born in this country. Even those Republicans who say that the Constitution requires citizenship for those born within the borders of the US oppose granting it.

Overall, by 47% to 23%, Americans say that the Constitution requires citizenship for those born on US soil. But Republicans aren’t sure: as many say it does as say it does not. The President has (inaccurately) said that the United States is the only country which does this (in fact nearly all countries in the Western Hemisphere do). But Republicans, 87% of whom approve of the way the President is handling his job, take his (incorrect) position on this.

More than three in four Republicans (and 86% of those who voted for the President in 2016) would support an executive order to stop granting U.S citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants, even if they were born on US soil. The public overall is evenly divided, 38% in favor and 40% opposed. But most Americans don’t believe the President should be able to change the 14th Amendment by executive order: 54% say a President should not be able to, while only 21% say it should be possible. Republicans, by a three to two margin, say a President should have this authority.

The President’s focus on the caravan reflects what most Republicans see as a threat to the United States (and a majority call a very serious one). That’s not the overall view: the public divides on the seriousness of the threat from the caravan. Republicans are more likely than Democrats and independents to believe there are Middle Eastern terrorists in the caravan, and while Americans would rather allow those in the caravan to state their case for asylum and admit those who qualify, half of Republicans would admit none of the migrants.

Republicans have been skeptical about Russian involvement in the 2016 election: nearly three in four doubt that any hacking of Democratic emails by Russia or the spreading of fake news to help Donald Trump win occurred. However, there is one rumor about the caravan that most Republicans do believe. More than two-thirds say that the caravan is being financed by George Soros, the Hungarian-American investor who founded Open Society Foundations. Most other Americans don’t agree. Three in four Democrats and six in ten independents don’t think Soros is funding the caravan.

See full toplines and tables results

Image: Getty

Full service research with expert insight

More about Custom Research
Related Content