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. buccakenji

    As a kid, I remember waiting in line in the family car to cross the border with Mexico in San Diego. Who would have guessed that 40 years later, all I had to do would be to go a few hundred miles east to cross without a hassle. Damn, things have changed.

    June 18, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  2. bnakka

    And what is with the picture showing legal immigrants about to be naturalized with american flags? The issue here is illegal immigration not legal immigration.

    June 18, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  3. Jim Hahn

    The point is moot. John Boehner has already seen to it that the immigration bill will fail. As Hispanics become a larger block of voters, this country will change and the Republicans will be further sidelined. 1950 is not coming back folks. You are either ready for 2025 or you are not.

    June 18, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  4. Peoples State of Illinois

    Time to play a good game of "cowboys and illegals."

    June 18, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  5. Joe

    Support comes mostly from Democrats at 60% and not Republicans at 50%? 6 out of 11 in favor hardly sounds like my idea of "most". Another great job CNN!

    June 18, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  6. DS

    I can't believe people are so anxious to build another Berlin Wall on our border. Wasn't it just about 25 years ago that St. Reagan was telling Gorbachev to "tear down this wall?"

    "Securing our borders" is actually code for politicians to offer fat government contracts to big construction companies. Think of all of the donations politicians would get from lobbyists to win favor in awarding the contracts!

    I think Molly Ivins was right on with her view on building a fence on the Mexican border: "Not gonna work, y'all. Build a 50-foot fence, and they'll build a 51-foot ladder. Hire Halliburton with a no-bid contract to build the fence, and it will hire illegal workers to do it."

    June 18, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  7. Ken in MO

    The GOP has created quite a pickle for itself. It created fear and hysteria about Obama, non-whites, immigrants, gays, women and government. Now it has clearly solidified it base of old whitle people. That party will die when the elderly die. Who says Archie Bunker is dead...he is alive and well, he just calls himself Fox News and GOP!!

    June 18, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  8. tag and release

    I guess if we allow the "12 million" illegals now in the country, we'll have to identify who they are today because there will be "12million+5" here tomorrow and "12million+10" here the day after .... How will we know a year from now who was here when the bill passed and who snuck across the boarder after the bill passed. Without securing the boarders today, we'll never be able to say "you were here last year when we said you could stay but you just came across this morning so you'll have to go back."

    June 18, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  9. freduardo

    The decline of the US began with the passing of the Hart/Cellar immigration law in 1965 that opened immigration to anyone from anywhere. This caused our immigration system to allow over one million legal immigrants to immigrate each year and varying hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens to sneak in each years as well. Our population is growing out of control and destroying our way of life. California runs huge deficits each year but would have a budget surplus if the costs of illegal aliens were subtracted. We did not need to grow our population from 200 million in 1967 to the 315 million
    we currently have. Randy is right, American citizens would do the jobs illegals are doing if those jobs were available.
    At one time construction, food service, hospitality and other jobs were filled by US citizens but now are reserved for illegal Spanish speakers through networking and discrimination. If this amnesty is passed the US will continue it's downward spiral and decline and become the newest and largest nation in Latin America. We need to repeal Hart/Cellar
    and void the amnesty of 1986 and deport everyone who immigrated since 1968 who would not have been eligible to immigrate under the previous immigration laws. We need to get our population down to 200 million within 10 years and our population down to 150 million in 20 years. Birthright citizenship needs to be eliminated and anyone who gained citizenship who's parents weren't citizens should be deported. English should be made the official language of the US.
    Puerto Rico should be made an independent nation and all those of Puerto Rican descent should be deported there. We've become so politically correct in this country that we can't even stop a foreign invasion or even speak out against
    this invasion without being slandered.

    June 18, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  10. Bill Davis

    Yes, we know old racist white people who's ancestors were granted citizenship doesn't want others to benefit as they did. Go figure...

    June 18, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  11. Peoples State of Illinois

    Democrats have created "archie bunker."

    June 18, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  12. Josie

    I have no problems with legal immigration, I do have a problem with illegal immigration. If you want to be here do it legally and it's worth the time and effort, you don't have to worry about being caught and sent back home again. Plus nothing against Mexico, but maybe instead of running here you should stay and actually fight to fix your own country! This is not Mexico and I am tired of Mexicans telling me I have to adapt to their culture and way of life, when they are in our country. Plus really do you think this is all about Mexicans? Making immigration easier also means we will get an influx of people from the Middle East and that is another culture I don't care for.

    June 18, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  13. Rowland

    In my view no illegal immigrant has a problem that we need to fix. They can fix it themselves.....simply go back where you can from and you are no longer illegal. And then come across legally. As to those children that did nothing wrong and are here it is an irrelevant consideration. There are millions of others who obeyed the law and their children who also "did nothing wrong" are precluded from being in this country. In what way does the fact that one's parent's deliberately did not follow the immigration laws give their children more of a right and opportunity to be in this country than the millions of children from parents who did obey the immigration law. When they return to their home country.....then they are on an equal footing with millions of other children who also "are not in this country through no fault of their own.

    June 18, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  14. rosethornne

    Those who came here illegally as adults should not be rewarded with citizenship; they should be taxed, fined, made to perform community service repairing infrastructure, and given guest worker visas with biometric ID.

    Those kids who are here through no fault of their own, if they are in school / not felons, no problem at all with them having a way to become citizens.

    June 18, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  15. Rooscow

    Nobody is really serious about this so-called "problem." All we hear is rhetoric dancing around the symptoms instead of the causes. Here at home the question must be asked "Who is providing all the jobs they come here to get?" From a foreign policy perspective "Why do they have to leave their homes to come here?" And, finally, do we really want to shut down the influx of people willing to do the things that our youth don't find attractive enough for themselves? As a young teenager, I was taught that work, any work, is honorable and builds character. I worked alongside migrant farm workers and entry level kitchen help. But, then again, the minimum wage was worth much more than it does now. Fortunately, the hating bigots behind this misguided reaction to immigration is growing smaller day by day.

    June 18, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  16. Ken in MO

    Let's be clear. Almost all of us are sons, grandson's, daughters and grand daughters of immigrants. Back then I am sure that there was the same debate. The, "There goes the Country" or the "I dont mind if some of them want to come over here but do it legally..." Legally is more of a poliitical mood of the time. They want to be legal...that is the point here.

    I was simply stating that the GOP is getting more and more out of touch with the rest of the country. There are more "Archie Bunkers" in that party than anywhere else. THEY, not the Democrats, created this hysteria for themselves...this fear of anyone not white. They created Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, etc. They will reap what they sew. It is sad too, they used to be a good disciplined party...I agreed with more than I disagreed...but they have went WAY off the deep end.

    June 18, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  17. Jason

    I don't understand why everyone keeps making this a Republican/Democrat issue and calling the Republicans racist for being against illegal immigration. Guess what? The Republicans gave illegal immigrants amnesty in 1986 and look where that got them and the country? More illegal immigrants came into the country and more votes for the democrats. Problem is this issue is only being considered as a scheme that will benefit either party; not what will benefit the nation.

    June 18, 2013 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  18. mamasmama

    @ Bill Davis
    "Yes, we know old racist white people who's ancestors were granted citizenship doesn't want others to benefit as they did. Go figure..."

    I don't know about your ancestors but my grandparents and parents came to the U.S. LEGALLY.
    Illegal entry and stay in the US is against the law. Why reward criminals? Why rewayd those who do not respect the laws of the country in which they want to live?

    As for the children of illegals, take it up with your parents. They are the ones who created the problems for you.

    June 18, 2013 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  19. someone

    What happens to people who miss the cutoff date of 12/31/2011? Do we deport them or wait for another amnestybill?

    June 18, 2013 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  20. Ray303

    I don't believe these "polls". If Congress and POTUS can be bought off I'm sure they can fix the "polls" too. The agenda here in flooding the American labor market with cheap labor is just too obvious.

    June 18, 2013 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  21. Just

    Illegals deserve nothing. They didn't follow the law before and they won't in the future.

    June 18, 2013 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  22. VA Blue Ridge Mountains

    Immigration bill could cut deficits by $175 billion – CBO. Really? Obama's administration expects the average U.S. citizen to believe this. I think the common worker is smarter than this to believe such a report. Let's look at the facts.

    I suggest everyone go rent the black and white movie "Grapes of Wrath", and then come back and read the above article. If any illegal tries to become a citizen they will lose their job, and another illegal who will not declare himself or herself as a citizen or is newly over the border will get their job. Without E-Verify for all companies of all sizes, the companies will just hire another set of illegals coming over the border. It is just good business, and the Senate is hoping we the people will be fooled again by another immigration bill that does not protect the American worker. Wake up America and smell the roses! The Senate Immigration bill does not protect us – the common worker and even the common illegal now living here. It only protects the corporations and even helps them to hire more new illegals and import more H1B/L1 visas from overseas. I can't believe Obama's administration tried to pull the wool over our eyes with this budget announcement. God help us common workers.

    June 18, 2013 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  23. John

    I haven't heard anyone making a strong case for or against this issue. Some people believe it would be pro growth and others think it will take jobs away from citizens but no concrete evidence of benefits.

    June 18, 2013 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  24. Name Steve

    The people that are opposed to comprehensive immigration are children of immigrant s, or immigrants themselves. Hey, count us in, but close the door and lock out everyone else regardless! They are the same people that will advocate sending the kids of the poor to fight wars but non of their own. Immigrants built this nation; they are contributors – not parasites as we are being brainwashed to believe. This reform, if passed is a win – win for everyone and the nation. We also need them to pay taxes and replenish our aging population. Immigrants are more positives than negatives. Please, live and let live and remember your grand parents that came here as immigrants too.

    June 18, 2013 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  25. erin

    Yeah, there's a generational divide on just about everything. And unfortunately our older citizens are continually choosing to be on the wrong side of history. Xenophobia isn't nice, nana.

    June 18, 2013 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
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