Majority of GOP Voters See Immigrants as ‘Burden’ in New Poll

Benjy Sarlin, MSNBC, June 4, 2015

No issue has tied Republican candidates into knots like immigration, where GOP 2016 hopefuls are divided both on whether to offer undocumented immigrants legal status and whether to embrace or criticize legal immigration. According to a new poll from Pew Research Center, Republican voters are struggling with the same questions in ways that separate them from the rest of the electorate.

In perhaps the most striking finding, some 63% of Republican voters view immigrants of all stripes as a “burden” who generally compete for jobs, housing, and health care. That’s almost a mirror image of Democrats, 62% of whom agreed with a statement that immigrants “strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents,” and independents, 57% of whom agreed immigrants “strengthen” America overall.

{snip} Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2012, has called for a 25% reduction in legal immigration while Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has expressed concern that immigration levels may be depressing wages. On the other hand, candidates like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, all of whom were raised in immigrant households, have called for policies to make it easier to immigrate into the United States.

Pew’s numbers show the potential for an ugly fight on the issue, especially in a crowded GOP field where candidates will find it hard to stand out with conservatives. 42% of Republican respondents said they wanted legal immigration decreased versus 28% of independents and 27% of Democrats.

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Per Pew, 56% of Republicans support a path to legal status, versus 80% of Democrats and 76% of independents. Republicans are less excited about the idea, however–a 58% majority see legal status as a “reward for doing something wrong” versus just 23% of Democrats and 33% of independents who view it that way. A whopping 86% of Hispanic respondents support legalization, highlighting the challenges Republicans face going forward in diverse swing states like Florida, Nevada, and Colorado.

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