February 6th, 2014
05:00 PM ET
2 months ago

CNN Poll: Pathway to citizenship trumps border security

Washington (CNN) - Americans overwhelmingly favor a bill that would give most undocumented immigrants a pathway towards citizenship, according to a new national poll.

And a CNN/ORC International survey also indicates that a majority of the public says that the government's main focus should be legalizing the status of the undocumented rather than border security.

The poll was released Thursday, the same day that House Speaker John Boehner signaled any action on immigration is unlikely this year because House Republicans don't trust President Barack Obama on the issue.

According to the poll, 54% say the top priority for the government in dealing with the issue of illegal immigration should be developing a plan that would allow undocumented immigrants with jobs to eventually become legal U.S. residents. Just over four in ten questioned say the main focus should be developing a plan for stopping the flow of undocumented immigrants into the U.S. and for deporting those already here.

"The Republicans' insistence that border security be the primary focus of U.S. immigration policy may have been a popular stand in 2011, but not necessarily in 2014," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

"American attitudes toward undocumented immigrants have changed. Starting in 2012, most Americans have said that the government's focus should be on a plan that would allow those immigrants to become legal U.S. residents. A majority has consistently taken that position since that time - 56% in 2012, 53% in 2013, and 54% in the current poll," added Holland.

The Democratic-controlled Senate last year passed a bipartisan illegal immigration bill that included an eventual pathway towards citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. According to the poll, more than eight in 10 support such a plan. There is little partisan divide, with 88% of Democrats, 81% of independents and 72% of Republicans in agreement.

The Senate bill stalled in the GOP dominated House. Republicans said they preferred to address the matter incrementally rather than in one comprehensive measure.

One idea House Republicans are considering is giving undocumented immigrants legal status to stay in the U.S., but not allow them a pathway towards citizenship. According to the survey, only 35% support such an idea, with just over six in 10 opposed. Again, there was no partisan divide, with two-thirds of Democrats and around six in 10 independents and Republicans opposing such a plan.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International from Jan. 31-Feb. 2, with 1,010 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

CNN Senior Congressional Producer Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.


Filed under: CNN/ORC International poll • Polls
soundoff (217 Responses)
  1. Fred G. Sanford

    The majority of Americans can say whatever they want.

    Republicans just say "NO!"

    February 6, 2014 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  2. Rachel

    Who did they poll...the illegals?

    February 6, 2014 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  3. david saint

    lol it never ceases to amaze me on this..sure border security is important, but the GOP REFUSES to define what they mean by that. Its just a talking point until they do so. Further, in a time when our economy is still recovering, why not bring the 11 million or so immigrants into the fold so they can become contributing members of society? People love to forget, they do buy things. And when they do so, that means sales taxes. Taking that out of the equation is ignorant, and redundant. So right wingers, spew your evil, show your hypocrisy (for those that call themselves "christians" anyways), but explain your idiocy in denying that these "PEOPLE" (not rodents as you all love to refer to them as) cant help us. Lastly, remember this..we were once foreigners here. Unless you are Native American, you have no right to call them "alien invaders"

    February 6, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  4. Thomas

    If we go to war with Mexico , we can give them refugee status.

    It worked with Iraq , Vietnam , Somalia

    February 6, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  5. realitycheck

    In keeping with everyone else on here, I submit that this is rubbish. They come here illegally, and they work the system to their benefit, claim maximum number of dependents on their W-4's, never file their taxes, claim dependents to the tune of 15 to 20 who LIVE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY SOUTH OF OUR BORDER.

    February 6, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  6. Scott B

    I really don't understand how liberals here are for open borders. Except for short term votes. Far more politically left countries in Europe have much more stringent immigration requirements. It's vital to a strong middle class in a highly regulated market that they claim to want. And while these low skill immigrants may vote Democrat now, when the GOP finally admits defeat and gives up on the issue them and/or their decedents will probably vote more conservative than the average.

    February 6, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  7. Joseph

    Unless the poll was confined to members of La Raza (Spanish for: The Race) don't believe this 5 star load of propaganda for a second.

    The traitors in DC are trying to justify their loony open borders agenda.

    February 6, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  8. N H

    This is just wrong. I am Latino, I have relatives that went through the LEGAL procedure to come to this country. Allowing illegal aliens the ability to stay I can deal with, but giving them citizenship? NO! They need to wait in line like everyone else. No shortcuts. Allowing them citizenship just encourages illegal immigration. People will look at that and think "come to the country illegally and get citizenship, or come legally and wait the 7 to 14 years like everyone else". Which would you choose?

    February 6, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  9. Bwana Salama

    It's useless asking people anything in polls. They've proven to be ignorant about the issues and repercussions of passing dumb laws simply because they're "popular" with the uneducated and uninformed population. I feel for those who have risked everything to come to this country illegally, but what's the point of having laws if you break them without consequences? People say we need people to work those minial jobs, but as soon as those illegal aliens get their papers they WILL NOT continue to do such jobs, they'll come after yours in one way or another, so think about the issues.

    February 6, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  10. Pat Grell

    NOBODY ASKED ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If they came into MY country illegally, I don't want them here at all, period! Send them home never to return. Anybody who applies for the proper paperwork however is welcome. I also don't approve that we "speed" thru citizenship to foreigners who marry American soldiers. Let them take the courses in our language and history and pass the tests BEFORE they get citizenship.

    February 6, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  11. dave

    We just have to concede that we can't control our borders, or enforce our laws. We should just have a standing amnesty program. The border will never be secure, nor will they enforce laws, employers will continue to hire illegal workers at will, with no fear of punishment. We have a permanent labor/worker surplus, and with policy and technology, we will always have that. With bad trade deals, supply side economics,huge, and growing, worker surplus, we are likely to have terrible economic conditions for all American workers from now on. Nothing can be done to change that. The illegals didnt' all get here in the Obama Administration, it goes way back, generations, which is more than obvious, as they are talking about the children, and grand children of illegal workers, who have been here almost all of their lives, maybe came here when they were 1 or 2 years old. It's just one of those problems that will never be solved, because the people and the government don' have the will to solve it. Our work force cannot be monitored, regulated, controlled, by laws. It's a glaring case of capitalism beating out the democracy, as Marx said, capitalism and democracy cannot co-exist, capitalism will soon destroy the democracy, meaning, laws don't mean a thing, even though they were put there by a democracy, what counts is capitalism, or, in this case, cheap labor, a huge labor surplus, so you can have more cheap labor. Nothing destroys lives, livelihoods, careers, jobs, wages, salaries, more than having a constant, permanent, labor surplus, and it is all the same pool, one large vat called the labor pool, no one is the exception to the labor pool, no one that works for a living. What would solve the problem would be to have amnesty, but only for those that go into journalism, have 30 million more journalist come in, have laws requiring them all to work in journalism. Driving down the journalism salaries so low that none of them would ever make a living again.

    February 6, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  12. Richard

    I dont believe americans are overwhelming to have these criminals have a pathway to citizenship. We are more interested in getting jobs for americans that currently want to work get a job.

    February 6, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  13. The Truth

    Polls do not equal news ... and based on the comments, CNN's poll is either incredibly biased or inaccurate. As much as I hate to say it, Boehner at least has a pulse on what matters most regarding this issue - and it's around border security.

    February 6, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  14. JB

    If an illegal, who has no major criminal offenses, wants to pay taxes for their income in return for a visa and maybe citizenship, I have no problem with it because now they are contributing member of society. I know too many current citizens that are just looking for a hand-out when some immigrants are looking for a better life for themselves and their family.

    February 6, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  15. cosmok

    When the results of polls are given, I wish they would provide the exact, word for word question that was asked of the people that were polled. You can skew peoples responses based on the way the question is asked.

    February 6, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  16. dalla

    This headline is just as ridiculous as the previous one that said "most Americans are happy with the economic recovery". Totally wrong...I live in a border state. Secure the border first. America can control the Iraq-Iran border but not the border with Mexico. Ridiculous!!

    February 6, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  17. DBB

    The next question would be is what are the numbers in this poll. Is the sample size 1000 people who took the poll or 300 hundred million. Since no-one here seems to have taken it I bet it was a SMALL percentage of the population.
    Statistics are a funny thing they can say WHATEVER you want them to say...

    February 6, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  18. Lee

    One would think that an open border would be an issue of National Security wasn't that the reason for the PATRIOT Act?

    February 6, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  19. rla

    what a lie poll- Only the low information voters believe this

    February 6, 2014 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  20. TexasMan

    Most of the country does feel this way it would be hard to tell from reading the comments section of this article though. But that is because old racist white people who are retired and don't have anything to do love to comment on articles like this. Everyone else has a life, let me get back to mine.

    February 6, 2014 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  21. Glenn

    They must have only polled illegals to get this result!

    February 6, 2014 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  22. William

    This cannot be true. I do not know anyone who feels this way. With manufacturing replacing labor with robots, where will these mostly unskilled people find work? Close the borders to unskilled laborers.

    February 6, 2014 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  23. William

    The polls are most likely correct. Just like they were in 2012. We've gotten pretty good at plling.

    February 6, 2014 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  24. Guy in NY

    Another useless poll from the 200-2000 people cnn called.
    not the 350-400million people this country has

    February 6, 2014 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  25. Mike

    Geez, who did they survey? Why is it fair or right to leapfrog a bunch of people who broke the law and who are here illegally in front of all those that are following the rules/laws and applying for citizenship through the proper process? "Taking cuts" and not following the rules is NOT the American way.

    Also, our immigration policy should be based on a zero sum gain. I'd love to give everyone in the world a hug and a puppy but there is a reality to what the US can actually support. The number we let in should equal the number we lose each year and the requirements to get in SHOULD BE TOUGH! Just like every other country out there. I'm as compassionate as the next person. So there should be a certain number of "hardship" cases allowed. But by and large, we should only be letting in people who can make positive contribution to our country. People who have demonstrated that they have something of value to give and that they WON'T be a burden on our country. This is no different than any other country out there.

    February 6, 2014 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
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