Posted on November 8, 2016

Survey Highlights Popularity of Immigration Enforcement

Center for Immigration Studies, November 8, 2016

The public wants immigration laws enforced, and the level of legal immigration reduced, according to a poll of 1,000 likely voters, conducted November 1-3 by Pulse Opinion Research for the Center for Immigration Studies. Unlike many other polls, which give the public the false choice of mass deportation or a “path to citizenship,” this neutral-language poll asked if the public supports causing illegal immigrants to leave the country by enforcing the law. A majority of the public supported this approach; and a majority or plurality supported it among almost all demographic groups, including Hispanics. Moreover, a majority of Americans want a level of legal immigration significantly lower than the current level; few want the kinds of increases contained in the Gang of Eight bill from 2013.

See the results here.

“Whatever the result of today’s voting, this poll helps explain why Donald Trump has remained as popular as he has, despite his many missteps, insensitive comments, and other revelations. Trump’s emphasis on enforcement clearly resonates with Americans, even if he has sometimes been careless in discussing the issue,” said Steven Camarota, the Center’s Director of Research.

Among the findings:

  • Most Americans (54 percent) believe there has been “too little effort” to enforce immigration laws; just 12 percent think there has been “too much effort” and 20 percent think efforts have been “just right.” (The totals reported in the bullets below do not necessarily total 100 percent because some people responded that they were not sure about their answer to a question.)
  • The popularity of enforcement can also be seen when people were asked what they thought should be done first about illegal immigration: 58 percent of respondents said that we should first “require employers to verify the legal status of their workers.” Only 35 percent responded we should first “give them work permits and put them on a path to citizenship.”
  • Of likely voters 56 percent of likely voters support causing illegal immigrants to return to their home countries by penalizing employers, getting cooperation from local law enforcement, and denying welfare benefits. Only 30 percent were opposed to this approach.
  • The above results avoid the false option of mass deportation, which is often offered as an option in such polls. No major pro-enforcement organization or public official, such as Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) or Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), or even Donald Trump’s finalized position supports a policy of mass deportation.
  • On legal immigration, when asked how many legal immigrants should be admitted, 54 percent of respondents picked 500,000 a year or fewer as the level they would prefer–about half the number currently allowed into the country. Just 11 percent wanted the current level of immigration of 1 million a year; and another 11 percent wanted more than one million a year.
  • The new survey includes detailed breakdowns by various demographic characteristics, including race, gender, age, ideology, party, and income.
  • One interesting finding is that a large share of Hispanics support enforcing immigration laws. Of likely Hispanic voters, 51 percent responded that efforts to enforce the law have been “too little,” compared to 38 percent who indicated that it was “too much” or “just right.”
  • Among Hispanics, 49 percent indicated that they would support a policy of causing illegal immigrants to return home by enforcing the law, compared to 36 percent who opposed such a strategy.
  • However, Hispanics were almost evenly split on whether we should require employers to verify legal status first (48 percent) or first give illegal immigrants work permits and a path to citizenship first (50 percent).
  • On legal immigration, 52 percent of Hispanic voters indicated that they wanted to allow 500,000 or fewer legal immigrants in to the country each year, about half the current level. Just 9 percent wanted to allow in one million legal immigrants a year, which is the current level; and just 13 percent wanted it increased above the current level of one million a year. Like other voters, about one-quarter of Hispanics said they were unsure about this question.