As Congress gears up to make another run at addressing immigration, a new in-depth survey of registered voters from the Program for Public Consultation (PPC) at the University of Maryland presented the major proposals under consideration and found that six in ten oppose spending $25 billion to strengthen the southern border, primarily through building a wall, but half favor some new spending.
In addition, a very large bipartisan majority—eight in ten—support extending the DACA program, providing legal status for 1.8 million immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children (“Dreamers”), and giving them a pathway to citizenship. Meanwhile, very large majorities oppose the proposals to eliminate the program that provides green cards to the parents, siblings and adult children of U.S. citizens and the visa lottery. However, in both cases, six-in-ten favor cutting them back to some extent.
The survey was conducted by PPC and released by the nonpartisan organization Voice of the People. To ensure that respondents understood the issue, they were given a short briefing on the U.S. immigration program and the proposals for reforming it under consideration in Congress. The content was reviewed by proponents and opponents of the proposals, to ensure the briefing was accurate and balanced, and the strongest arguments were presented.
The border wall is a partisan issue
Asked about “the government spending $25 billion to build a stronger barrier along the southern border with Mexico, primarily by building a wall,” 58 percent were opposed. Responses were highly partisan, with 78 percent of Republicans in favor and 93 percent of Democrats opposed. Independents leaned against the idea with 55% opposed. Majorities were opposed in two states that abut the southern border—Texas (55 percent) and California (67 percent)—as well as Florida (55 percent).
Those who opposed were asked a follow-on question about whether they would favor spending some amount to build a stronger barrier. Ten percent (of the full sample) favored an increase. Combined with the 41 percent who favored the $25 billion, 51 percent favored some increase. Asked how much they favored spending, the amounts proposed were generally low, and some backed away from the idea, so that less than half of the full sample supported spending $1 billion or more.
Dreamer citizenship has bipartisan support
Respondents evaluated the proposal to create a legal status for the 1.8 million immigrants eligible under the DACA program and make them eligible to apply for citizenship in 10-12 years. It was approved by an overwhelming 80 percent, including 69 percent of Republicans as well as 92 percent of Democrats, and in Texas (79 percent), Florida (77 percent), and California (84 percent).
“While Democrats and Republicans in Congress are having tremendous difficulty finding any common ground on immigration, the majority positions of the public—after hearing both sides of the issues—point to some possible areas of agreement,” said Steven Kull, director of PPC, in a news release.
The survey was conducted online from February 21- March 12, 2018 with a national probability-based sample of 2,916 registered voters, provided by Nielsen Scarborough from Nielsen Scarborough’s sample of respondents, who were recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The national sample of 2,228 registered voters has a margin of error of +/- 2.1%. The sample of 2,916 registered voters included a national sample of 2,228 registered voters, plus three oversampled states—California (400), Florida (418), and Texas (383).