Washington (CNN) - A majority of Americans support Arizona's tough new immigration law, even though most of them think it could lead to racial profiling, according to a new national poll. A CBS/New York Times survey released Tuesday also indicates that Americans overwhelming believe that the country's immigration laws need to be changed.
Fifty-one percent of people questioned in the poll say the new legislation, which Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law on April 23, is about right, with another nine percent saying it doesn't go far enough and 36 percent saying it goes too far in its scope. But more than eight in ten questioned say its very or somewhat likely that the new law will lead to police officers detaining people of certain racial or ethnic groups more frequently than other racial or ethnic groups.
The new Arizona law requires immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times and requires police to question people if there is reason to suspect they are in the United States illegally. The measure also makes it a state crime to live in or travel through Arizona illegally.
The law has ignited protests in the state and across the country and some are urging economic boycotts of Arizona. Supporters say the law is needed to confront rising problems involving illegal immigrants in Arizona, particularly those with criminal records.
A Gallup poll released last week showed similar public attitudes: nearly four in ten Americans supported the new law, with three in ten opposed, and 31 percent saying they had not heard of the new law at the time, or had no opinion.
According to the CBS/New York Times survey, eight in ten think it is somewhat or very likely that the new measure will deter immigrants from reporting crime or cooperating with authorities out of fear of being deported. Nearly eight in ten questioned say it's somewhat or very likely that the new law will burden the resources of state and local police departments.
But nearly three out of four Americans believe that it is likely the new law will lead to a reduction in the number of illegal immigrants currently in Arizona, and nearly seven in ten say it is likely the measure will deter people from other countries from illegally crossing the border into the state.
The poll indicates that 44 percent of the public believe the nation's immigration policy should be completely rebuilt, with another 45 percent saying fundamental changes are needed. Nearly two-thirds of those questioned say the issue of illegal immigration is a serious problem for the country, while another 24 percent say it's a somewhat serious problem.
The survey suggests that Americans are more divided on what to do: 44 percent support keeping legal immigration at its current level, just over three in ten support decreasing the level, and 17 percent call for an increase.
The CBS/New York Times poll was conducted April 28-May 2, with 1,079 adults questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.