CNN Poll: Big generational divide in immigration battle
June 18th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
10 months ago

CNN Poll: Big generational divide in immigration battle

Washington (CNN) - While a small majority of Americans are in favor of the immigration bill currently before the U.S. Senate, according to a new national poll the old and young don't see eye to eye on the issue.

And a CNN/ORC International survey also indicates that more than six in ten say border security rather than a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants should be the bigger priority.

The poll's Tuesday morning release comes as a bill backed by the bipartisan 'Gang of Eight' senators faces more legislative hurdles. The measure would offer a 13-year path to eventual citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the country. If the legislation passes through the Democratic Senate, it would face an uncertain future in the Republican dominated House of Representatives.

According to the poll, 51% say they support a bill that would attempt to increase border security and create a pathway to citizenship for many undocumented immigrants, with 45% saying they are opposed to such a measure.

"Support comes mostly from Democrats - six in ten favor the bill - with independents and Republicans split right down the middle," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "There is also a generation gap on this issue, with senior citizens opposed to the bill by a 17-point margin, while younger Americans tend to favor it."

The poll's release also comes as some GOP senators ready an amendment to the 'Gang of Eight' bill that they say would further bolster border security. Sixty-two percent of those questioned in the survey say that border security should be the main focus U.S. immigration policy, with 36% saying that creating an eventual path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants should be the top priority.

"Republicans and independents strongly support making border security the top concern, but even Democrats are split on this question," adds Holland.

There's also a generational divide, with those age 18-34 split on what's most important, and large majorities of those age 35 and older saying border security should be the top priority when it comes to immigration policy.

President Barack Obama and Democrats want to fulfill a promise to Hispanic Americans, the nation's fastest-growing demographic and a key voting bloc, to address the limbo of the 11 million immigrants living illegally in the country. If the bill becomes law, it would be one of the president's major legislative achievements of his second term.

But the poll indicates a majority of Americans don't give Obama a thumbs up on the issue. Only four in ten say they approve of the job he's doing on illegal immigration, with 56% saying they disapprove of his performance on the issue. Those numbers are little changed in CNN polling dating back to 2009, the president's first year in the White House.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International June 11-13, with 1,014 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

soundoff (381 Responses)
  1. Huh.

    I wonder how the polling was conducted? I ask this being that WHITE AMERICANS are one percentage point away from being the 'majority' in the United States. That said – there must be a fair number of Latino, Asian and African Americans who are ALSO against an immigration bill? Because roughly half of WHITE Americans support immigration reform...so how did we get these figures? And word to the scared White America – next year Latino, Asian, African American will combined account for more than half of all Americans. So you'd best stop being scared and start being a part of the nation.

    June 18, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  2. testerbill

    There is so much mis-information on the internet and in the media about the bills being considered that the average citizen doesn't know what is being proposed. So any survey asking general questions is not very accurate. I would guess that most citizens want a secure border first, and are willing to have a "work visa/green card" system for those here undocumented. We need to know who they are.
    And economically, undocumented workers put more money into the system than they take out.

    June 18, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  3. Ed

    If this bill passes, then the first thing they have to do is require every alien in the country to come out of the shadows and register within 30 days. Anyone who isn't on the registration list in 30 days doesn't get any of the benefits of the bill and is never eligible for the path to citizenship.

    June 18, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  4. Jerry

    someone tell me how do we secure our borders. Everyone talks about the border with Mexico, what about the border with canada? Do you think no ILLEGALS come across that border? We need to quit trying to make a "Politically Correct" bill and make one that;s tough but fair for us Americans and stop worrying about the feelings of the ILLEGALS.....

    June 18, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  5. bones

    just get them out of here

    June 18, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  6. Lee

    Heck yeah we need better border security. If 11 million undocumented illegals are in this country, that's a problem. I live in a small town, and when I was growing up you could walk anywhere and always feel safe. Now, all we have is illegal gang bangers marking up the town with their graffiti, stabbing, and shooting people. Of course we need increased border security. I don't want this country town turning into some of those cities in Mexico.

    June 18, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  7. dog hair

    we need to vote everyone out and since obama has decided to join the 1% group .they all lie ,steal,and are crooked.bernie sanders of vermont is the only one we can count on on the hill

    June 18, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  8. Bzarr

    There is one thing we need to do before implementing effective border control measures. We need to deport the 11 million illegal aliens that have invaded our country.

    June 18, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  9. Generation x and y

    When will the elderly realize they will be dying soon and it's us who is left with their crap legislation. New rule when you go on social security you can no longer vote.

    June 18, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  10. Generation x and y

    @bzarr then you pay for the do rotation costs, I'm not going to.

    June 18, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    Hey CNN, read these comments. I'd say a large majority want illegal immigrants out of the country. Try enforcing the laws we already have.

    June 18, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  12. VA Blue Ridge Mountains

    We can't secure the border effectively. We have tried the last ten years. It is currently not technically feasible. Maybe in the future when we have better technology. Stop wasting billions of dollars on trying to do it. Just e-verify. It is currently the only way we have to stop the illegal immigration now.

    Just like we had to wait almost 15 years for the microprocessors to get faster to allow our missiles to stop incoming warheads whose research initiative started back in President Reagan's era in the mid 1980, we now need to wait for better seismic sensors to detect tunnels being dug. It is just that simple. Our engineers and universities need to work on this problem. In the meantime, the country needs to push for e-verify to stop the illegal immigration. E-verify is the only way.

    June 18, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  13. John Campbell

    I respectfully disagree with a lot of posters. Illegal immigration is an overall drain on our country. We have an estimated 11 million illegals that will get work permits, when we have 20 million unemployed NOW. Plus, we have 20 million MORE legal immigrants coming over in the next decade. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what's going to happen to Americans looking for work, or already have jobs. Wage depression is real, folks.
    We need a strong worker verification system like E-Verify for all hires, coupled with strict, enforceable penalties on employers so we won't have this happen again. No jobs, illegals won't come.

    You must also take into consideration that US Citizens pay to educate, and feed the "anchor babies" that are born here. That is the welfare that opponents speak of. The illegal indirectly benefits from the Food Stamps, ect that is for the children of illegals.

    A lot of us understand that something needs to be done, but I still have the memory of 1986, and the so called "it won't happen again". This time, we have to make sure that we don't have to revisit this in 10 years, with 20 million illegals screaming for "amnesty." Think about the HUGE amount of new visas in this bill. We don't need them, and it will harm us!

    June 18, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  14. Pico

    Why not give all nations the same benefit we gave the Cubans.

    June 18, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  15. Lisa

    "President Barack Obama and Democrats want to fulfill a promise to Hispanic Americans, the nation's fastest-growing demographic and a KEY VOTING BLOC, to address the limbo of the 11 million immigrants living illegally in the country.".... is it fastest growing because of all the illegals? They are not allowed to vote.... however if you give them citizenship, sure. Is that why?

    And @huh – I don't think anyone is 'scared', i think we are tired of people who break the law being REWARDED. Just like when Reagan gave amnesty in the '80s'. Many of us also have friends or family going through the legal procedures – waiting years and costly procedures to get THEIR citizenship. If the illegal aliens don't like it – they can leave and come back legally.

    A liberal independent against amnesty...

    June 18, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  16. Illegals are Criminals

    No free passes for criminals that sneak into a country.
    No more anchor babies.
    Stronger border patrols.
    Come here legally or suffer the consequences.

    June 18, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  17. Xty

    It is a question of using common sense.Secure the borders first to avoid influx after the legislation is passed.

    June 18, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  18. zgranger

    The whole premise of this program is that ALL illegal immigrants want to be citizens. And they are willing to jump threw hoops of fire to get it. If these illegals had better job prospects in Mexico you can bet they would desert any attempts to become a citizen. This whole thing stinks like three day old fish. There is an agenda and most Americans are not educated enough to see it.

    June 18, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    glaird wrote:

    It's not "immigration" that CNN, the liberals, and every other self serving individual (who has a vested interest in harboring, hiring, and feeding illegal aliens) are talking about. They use the word to confuse the issue. What CNN really means is granting amnesty to criminal individuals, who ignored our borders, are stealing jobs from Americans, and consuming limited resources.
    --------------------
    I find it astonishing how the right wing comes up with so many densely dumb ideas, which are boiling over with hypocrisy. The cut, cut, cut party wants to spend, spend, spend tens of billions of dollars exporting illegal immigrants.

    They don't want to spend billions to fix our bridges and highways,, but they have yet to figure out that they have to spend even more than that to house and feed the thousands and millions of people who would be rounded up like cattle that broke through a fence.

    June 18, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  20. John Illinois

    You do not reward illegal alien criminals; you deport them like every other country does! What is wrong with the younger generation and liberals?!?! Secure the border first and then deport the illegal alien criminals! No one has a problem with immigrants coming here the established LEGAL way! Just enforce the current laws!

    June 18, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  21. Steve

    The words " secure the boarder " are just rhetoric designed to obstruct. Boarder security has doubled and illegal crossings has diminished so has exportation. Just saying secure the boarder, secure the boarder doesn't mean all that can be done isn't being done.

    June 18, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  22. jim

    Democrats want to give millions of foreign criminals, the majority of which are democrats, the right to vote in our elections. Seems pretty straight forward to me.

    June 18, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  23. texan

    The immigration problem did not start in our generation and it surely won't end here. As long as we are the greatest nation in the world it's a problem we, our sons, and gransons will have to deal with. Educate yourself, take care of your credit, avoid any type of crimminal background and no immigrant will ever take your job. Live and let live.

    June 18, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  24. Tim

    I find it funny that the younger people support this. When in fact it will have the mostly negative on them for jobs. You will be adding 11 million people to the job market and mostly in the lower / starting jobs market. Even if they don't compete directly with you it will give the business owners more options which will in turn lead to lower pay for all. The same applies to black. It time you start thinking for yourself.

    June 18, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  25. sly

    So, Republicans want no immigration reform?

    Ok ... sounds like business as usual in America.

    We will always have these 15 million illegal immigrants, since Republicans have no clue what they want.

    June 18, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
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