Public Opinion on Immigration Reform

Conventional wisdom holds that voters, especially Republican voters, are relentlessly hardline when it comes to immigration policy and reform. Polls that present false choices over immigration—asking whether the government should focus on enforcing immigration laws OR legalizing undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria—only serve to confirm that flawed analysis. However, more sophisticated surveys conducted by a number of reputable organizations make it clear that Americans’ views on immigration are far more nuanced than politicians seem to understand.

By consistently strong majorities, Americans support comprehensive immigration reform. In 2009 as in previous years, voters want the President and Congress to advance a solution that legalizes the undocumented workforce, requires them to pay taxes, levels the playing field for workers and employers, and restores the rule of law. The same was true in the run-up to the 2008 elections, when swing voters chose candidates who offered practical solutions to the broken immigration system over those who offered just empty rhetoric. Following is a snapshot of recent opinion polls on immigration reform.

For years, anti-immigrant activists have scared Republican officials into thinking that GOP voters are rabidly anti-immigrant and oppose any candidate who supports common sense reform. The recent ascent of Newt Gingrich, who has weathered attacks from enforcement-only candidate Mitt Romney over his immigration position, demonstrates conclusively that this line of thinking is wrong.

ImpreMedia-Latino Decisions conducted a tracking poll of 500 Latino voters, which shows that Latino voters prioritize immigration, and do so because they view the issue through a personal lens. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.38%.

The PEW Research Center releases polling the public as a whole supports a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants currently in the United States, by 72% to 24%.

ImpreMedia, the leading Hispanic news and information company, partnered with Latino Decisions to release a series of six national polls among Latino registered voters. The tracking poll is set to reveal Latino’s perspectives on issues related to the economy, immigration, education and healthcare.

In November 2010, Latino Decisions conducted an election-eve poll of Latino voters in eight states, including Florida. The poll shows that Florida Latinos want action on Immigration Reform, like the DREAM Act, and that immigration reform is a key issue for them.

While much post-election analysis has highlighted how Latino voters were mobilized by the immigration debate and helped Democrats retain the Senate, new polling from Lake Research Partners focuses on the views of all voters toward immigration policy. The research finds that despite midterm election gains by conservatives and Republicans, voters have not turned against comprehensive immigration reform and remain broadly in favor of a national and practical fix to the immigration system. The poll was conducted between October 31st and November 2, 2010 and the survey reached a total of 1,200 likely, registered voters nationwide.

This new series of polls detail how Latino citizens voted in eight states (AZ, CA, CO, FL IL, NM, NV, and TX) that are crucial to determining the balance of power in Congress. The polls, which utilize a new model to approximate turnout for the mid-term elections, reveal who Latinos voted for in key races for House, Senate, and Governor, and more importantly, what motivated their vote.

Latino voters have the power to change the outcome of a number of crucial races in 2010. Whether they make the choice to vote or the choice to stay home will be decisive. Recent polls attempt to answer the all-important question of turnout. While it is too soon to tell whether Latino turnout will be up or down, the polls illuminate a number of factors that will determine the outcome.

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