A New York Times/CBS News poll released yesterday found that 69% of American adults believe illegal immigrants should “be prosecuted and deported for being in the U.S. illegally.” Just 24% disagree and say they should not. The survey of 1,125 adults was conducted May 18-23, 2007.
Ultimately, while supporting prosecution, the poll shows that just 33% of Americans believe that most illegal aliens should actually be deported. Sixty-two percent (62%) say that most illegal aliens who have been here at least two years should be “given a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status.” Giving them a chance to keep their jobs is a continuation of the status quo requiring no change in policy.
The attitudes are consistent with virtually all other polling on the issue. Rasmussen Reports data released Wednesday showing that 72% of Americans say it’s Very Important for the U.S. to “improve border enforcement and reduce illegal immigration.” By a 2-to-1 margin (60% to 28%), Americans believe it is more important to gain control of the nation’s borders than to “legalize the status of undocumented workers already living in the United States.”
Underlying these attitudes, the New York Times/CBS News survey found that 53% of American adults believe most recent immigrants to the United States “cause problems.” Just 32% say they contribute to this country. Sixty-two percent (62%) believe the immigrants don’t make enough of an effort to learn English (that’s one reason most Americans support making English the nation’s official language).
Like Rasmussen Reports, the New York Times/CBS News survey found that concerns about illegal immigration do not dampen enthusiasm for legal immigration. According to the Times, 24% believe all immigrants should be welcomed while 48% believe “some” should be welcomed. Rasmussen Reports has consistently found majority support for an immigration policy that welcomes all except national security threats, criminals, and those seeking to live off the U.S. welfare system. In fact, even among those who favor enforcement-first reforms, a majority ultimately supports a welcoming immigration policy.
Second, there is enormous skepticism about the government commitment to enforcing the borders (as the Times survey noted, only 14% believe the government is doing all it can at this time). To most voters, immigration reform is all about border control. Until voters are convinced that the enforcement is both real and effective, there will be no popular support for reform.
[Editors Note: The poll discussed in the story can be read on-line or downloaded here.]