Julia Preston, New York Times, December 6, 2011
With immigration now a front-burner issue in the Republican presidential contest, a new poll shows a substantial age gap among Republican voters over whether there should be a path to citizenship for immigrants who are in the country illegally.
A majority–57 percent–of Republicans who are 65 and older say that tighter border security and tough law enforcement should be the only focus of immigration policy, with no path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, a nonpartisan group in Washington. Only about one-quarter of this group, or 24 percent, favor combining strict enforcement with a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
Among Republicans who are younger than 30, the poll found, 42 percent favor a combined approach of tough enforcement against illegal immigration with a path to citizenship, while 30 percent wanted only enforcement. Among these younger Republicans, another 26 percent said that opening a path to citizenship should be the immigration priority, with or without tougher enforcement.
The Pew poll appears to point to a silent but substantial minority of Republicans who could support a legalization program for illegal immigrants if it were combined with rigorous enforcement.
The poll is based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 9 to 14 among a national sample of 2,001 adults 18 or over.