CNN Poll: Border crisis impacting public opinion on immigration
July 24th, 2014
05:01 PM ET
3 months ago

CNN Poll: Border crisis impacting public opinion on immigration

Washington (CNN) - The current crisis on the nation's southern border appears to be fueling a notable shift in American attitudes toward immigration policy with border security growing in importance, according to a new national survey.

A CNN/ORC International poll released on Thursday also indicates that a majority of those surveyed support making it easier for the United States to return migrant youth from Central America who have surged across the U.S. border with Mexico this year.


But according to the survey, a bare majority views the children as refugees rather than illegal immigrants, and most say they'd be willing to have the federal government temporarily relocate some of the children to their communities or their city.

The influx of children trying to cross the southern border, many of them unaccompanied, has been a major media story over the past month. The White House and many Democrats have clashed with Republicans in Congress and governors over who is to blame and what should be done about it.

According to the poll, 51% now say the government's focus, when it comes to immigration policy, should be formulating a plan to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants. Forty-five percent say the top priority should be developing a plan that would allow undocumented immigrants who have jobs to become legal residents.

That's a change from February, when Americans said 54%-41% that legal status trumped border security.

"In the early part of this decade, a solid majority consistently said that the main focus of the U.S. government should be stopping the flow of illegal immigrants and deporting those already in the country. But in 2012, that flipped dramatically, with a solid majority believing that the government's main focus should be on a plan to allow illegal immigrants to become legal U.S. residents," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Now - and in a matter of months - the pendulum has swung back."

Big partisan divide

The survey indicates major partisan, geographical, generational, and gender divides.

Sixty-one percent of Democrats, but less than a quarter of Republicans, say that legal status is more important than border security. Independents are divided.

A majority of northeasterners say legal status is most important, while majorities in the Midwest and South say border security is the top priority. People in the West are divided. A majority of men and those over 50 say beefing up the border is most pressing, while most of those under 50 say legal status comes first. Women are divided.

The attention the current crisis is receiving is also fueling a spike in those who say the issue's extremely important. Thirty-nine percent now say it's extremely important for President Barack Obama and Congress to deal with illegal immigration, up 10 points from last year.

"That means that immigration is the only issue tested that has grown significantly more important to the public in the past year," Holland adds. "Nonetheless, immigration remains less important to the American public than the economy, education, health care and the budget deficit."

How to fix the problem

Fifty-four percent of those questioned say they support spending several billion dollars to increase the number of border officials who can determine whether the immigrant children should be deported, or allowed to stay.

Obama proposed a $3.7 billion emergency spending bill, which was instantly opposed by conservatives who argued the plan was too expensive.

Obama weighs sending national guard to border

Senate Democrats unveiled a $2.7 billion version that lacks key changes to border policies that Republicans have demanded as a condition for approving new funds. Wednesday, House Republican countered with a $1.5 billion emergency spending bill.

Under current U.S. law, unaccompanied children from Central America who illegally come to the United States may remain for months or years until they receive an immigration hearing on their status.

The poll indicates that more than six in 10 favor a bill that would make it easier for federal authorities to deport all children who enter the country illegally.

There's a partisan divide on the question, with more than eight in 10 Republicans and nearly two-thirds of independents, but only a minority of Democrats, supporting the idea.

Jeb Bush weighs in on border crisis

Refugees or illegal immigrants?

Americans are divided on how they view the undocumented children. Fifty-one percent describe most as refugees fleeing violence and poverty, with 45% saying most of them are illegal immigrants whose parents are trying to exploit a loophole in the U.S. immigration system.

By a 57%-41% margin, people say they'd be willing to have some of the children relocated to a security facility in the city or town where they live until the cases are resolved.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International from July 18-20, with 1,012 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

soundoff (211 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    CNN, who are you polling? Evidently not the Americans responding on a regular basis to the invasion – not immigration -crisis on our southern border. Remember these are illegals, not refugees. Get real. Where there are thousands today, there will be millions tomorrow. Truth is, WE cannot afford them. WE cannot finance food, housing, education, healthcare, etc. for these illegals. Truth is. Illegal is illegal. Take care of our own. Send them back. Close our border until this "CRISIS" is over.

    July 25, 2014 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  2. betterdays

    Obama doesn't need to be "baited" into breaching laws, believe me.

    July 25, 2014 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  3. SherrellAnn

    CNN, who are you polling? My guess it is not the many many who are responding on a regular basis to the current crisis on our Southern border. Remember CNN, this is not an "immigration" crisis, this is an invasion of Illegals. Where there are thousands today, there will be millions tomorrow. All coming to us for expected freebies financed by our hard earned taxpayer dollars. Take care of our own. We cannot afford these illegals. Close the border. Return the illegals. Do it now. CNN, if you are going to do a "poll", do it right.

    July 25, 2014 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  4. Nancye J. May

    To The GOP Solution: If you believe the garbage you spewed, then I feel truly sorry for you. When the law as passed in 2008, there was a total Democrat Congress and it was only for sex trafficked kids. So get real, people. Let's be honest.

    July 25, 2014 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  5. Say What?

    I love polls...someone spends money to hire a few people to call random people and ask them a bunch of questions. I'd be willing to bet that more than 3% didn't answer the question honestly. Most people aren't going to answer some smuck nonsense questions during dinner hours. And yet, THEY want you to be the majority wants this or that...

    I can tell you that a majority of people are upset about what's happening in this country and they are tired of congress and the President

    July 25, 2014 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  6. Clay

    Unbelievable that white Americans would allow Hispanics to illegally invade and conquer the United States without an army or firing a shot. After all the fighting and killing whites done to take the country, Hispanics are taking it away by walking across the border. Seal the border and deport those 11 plus million illegals before it is to late.

    July 25, 2014 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  7. David

    They don't qualify under 2008 law. Their parents paid smugglers to break our laws and bring them here. Put them in communities and they will just disappear forever. Even if they have family here they broke the law.

    July 25, 2014 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  8. Tone

    CNN/ORC why didn't you ask the American if the Children at the border should be sent home or should we keep them, rather than run a misleading poll where each person in that poll is asked several different questions then you calculate it to get your findings.Republicans are burying them selves in ignorance, the least educated amomg them is leading the party.

    July 25, 2014 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  9. Voice of Reason

    1. For all the people screamng that children need a hearing – Why are children from countries other than Mexico and Canada deserve a hearing? They are using the same borders to enter US. We need to stop this discrimination and deport them back to where they came from. At the very least return them to their embassy/consulates and then their government needs to take care of them
    2. Thousands of people are waiting in the legal immigration line. Some that I personally know have been waiting over 6 years and paying thousands of dollars in legal fees. Giving legal status to undocumented and illegals before them is a slap in the face of legal immigration. We need to fix legal immigration before we try our hand on the undocumented.

    July 25, 2014 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  10. spike1234

    This is all orchestrated by the O admin.
    The average income of a Honduran is 2,200 per year. Who is giving them the money to pay 5000-7000 to come to the states?
    Why were newspapers advertising come to America, you wont get deported?
    Why did the DHS start soliciting, in January of this year for bids to take care of up to 65,000 immigrant children?
    Why is America still advertising the availability of food stamps in Mexico's cities?
    Why is this admin. shipping these illegals all over the country? Certainly NOT for ease of deportation.
    Why does this admin. have a La Raza higher up on his administration as a key advisor? They advocate death to whites and the superiority of the Spanish speakers.
    With everything, there are many dots to connect in this admin. Something very criminal is going on, at the American taxpayers expense.

    July 25, 2014 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  11. Chazz Darby

    Close the boarders! There is a whooping cough epidemic in Snohomish Country in Washington State and infestations of bed bugs are rampant. Illegal Immigrants are not getting shots for their kids because they are trying to dodge the authorities and not attract attention to themselves. We all end up paying the price! They bring their filth with them. Plague rats, all of them.

    July 25, 2014 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
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