CNN Poll: Border crisis impacting public opinion on immigration
July 24th, 2014
05:01 PM ET
5 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. just asking

    what??? americans don't want their country invaded and overrun with illegals that will cost us untold billions, not to mention the crime. who woulda thunk it!

    July 24, 2014 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  2. Lynda/Minnesota

    Well, CNN. At this point you are singing to the choir. But didn't you folks hear John Boehner say it ain't happening? Congress is set (and I mean SET) on their monthly August recess. It's no use trying to explain to us why nothing will get done. We've been there, done (and keep voting 'em back in).

    July 24, 2014 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  3. Chris..E.al

    I have read that paid upwards of 7000 dollars to make the trip ? This is the dems fault they had heard that the dems wants to give all illegal a free pass and they would if n0t for the repubs opposition . The dems are still pandering till this day

    July 24, 2014 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  4. bill

    Just shut up and pay your taxes. 12 million undocumented future obamabots need the money.

    July 24, 2014 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "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."

    Under current U.S. law, unaccompanied children from Central America who illegally come to the United States may remain until they receive an immigration hearing on their status. This can take months or even years because there are not enough personnel, such as public representation for the immigrants and judges to hear the cases, or places to hold the hearings, etc., and not enough funding to increase our capacity for handling these cases in parallel, rather that one after the other.

    FIFY

    You deliberately worded it wrong to give the impression that the law literally just lets them stay for years explicitly says that. This is a PROCESS issue. PROCESS requires funding, people to carry it out places in which it can be carried out, etc. We have neither for this scale of a sudden problem. THAT is why Obama proposed additional funding $3.7B. The GOP/Teatrolls want to undercut that significantly to make things harder to accomplish, easier to fail and longer to complete....and then later claim he's "dragging his feet." It's just more breaking gov't to "prove" it's broken.

    July 24, 2014 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "americans don't want their country invaded and overrun with illegals that will cost us untold billions,"

    Ignorant 'Murkins don't want their country invaded and overrun with illegals they believe will cost us untold billions while contributing even more billions in economic activity to the economy.

    FIFY

    July 24, 2014 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    "Why is it that ONLY the GOP is the heartless ones who won't even give the CHILDERN a hearing and would violate the current LAW THAT THEY VOTED FOR under BUSH."

    What don't you understand about this? These are brown people who might grow up to vote for Democrats. The GOP/Teatrolls see them as sub-human, which makes it very easy for them to make the next step to believing they do not have any right to due process.

    July 24, 2014 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  8. it must be said

    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.
    ---

    This is a perfect example of the power of the Democrat Party's strongest arm, the left wing media that pushes their lies as truth. And they don't have to pay one cent for it!!

    July 24, 2014 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  9. cmml

    Yet another example of the GOP being correct. The Democrat party seems to need a crisis in order to see the truth – and even then the light bulb doesn't always come on.

    July 24, 2014 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    "Congress is set (and I mean SET) on their monthly August recess

    Indeed. The GOP/Teatroll led House plans to GO ON VACATION INSTEAD OF ADDRESSING THIS CRISIS...after they literally spent a month or two vomiting talking points about Obama not going to the border to slam his wizard's staff on the ground and scream "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!!!!" at all the little balrogs climbing the fence. The Dem-led Senate, however, has indicated that they would like to vote on something to address it before their recess. The GOP/Teatrolls in the Senate will block it...mark my words.

    July 24, 2014 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  11. Silence DoGood

    @Name JK. SFL. THE GOP HOWDEE GOWDEE SHOW with special guest ISSA the CLOWN
    Why is it that ONLY the GOP is the heartless ones who won't even give the CHILDERN a hearing and would violate the current LAW THAT THEY VOTED FOR under BUSH. Could it be they are trying to bait Obama into breaching the law that THEY WROTE so as to impeach him. That's why Obama doesn't listen to the GOP and neither do I. !!!!!!
    -------------–
    This is a flashback to when the GOP demanded that Obama give businesses more time to comply with ACA.
    When he did they said "ooo oooo look he broke the law hahahahaha" like 5 year old kids.
    The GOP should spent more time attempting to fix the problems we have instead of scheming.

    July 24, 2014 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  12. just asking

    but did the poll ask those that wanted to keep these illegals here, would they be willing to pay billions in added government spending and taxes to do so? of course nobody has problem with keeping all of them here as long they think somebody else will be paying the bill for it! these polls are a total joke because the people answering don't know all of the facts and implications of their choice.

    July 24, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    "Dude, you are all over the map and driving erratically. You feeling ok?"
    -––
    It's depressing to see that you have descended into the depths of despair and have nothing better to offer than personal attacks and bad comedy, instead of concrete ideas and reasoned debate
    ––
    Ummmmmmmm... no. Actually, Rudy, your normally ridiculous spin is exceptionally poor today, and I truly think you might have fallen off the turnip wagon.
    =============================================================
    Yup, I was right. You're out of fresh ideas with merit, and have reduced yourself to bad comedy and personal attacks
    ----------------------------------------------------–
    Well in all fairness Rudy that's all she ever had. That and her trademark you-don't-know-me-etch-a-sketch arguments.
    The only one on this site for the past 6 1/2 years that ever indulged her, engaged her and took her posts seriously was....you my friend.
    Now you're stuck with her!
    Poltics does indeed make strangebedfellows of sorts! Lol

    July 24, 2014 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  14. Ian's Rushtache

    Chris..E.al says:
    July 24, 2014 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm
    I have read that paid upwards of 7000 dollars to make the trip ? This is the dems fault they had heard that the dems wants to give all illegal a free pass and they would if n0t for the repubs opposition . The dems are still pandering till this day
    ____________________________

    Exhibit"A" as to the intellectual capabilities of the GOP base.

    July 24, 2014 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  15. Cin99

    I have to say, I will really miss him when he is out of office. He is the first President in my lifetime, that I truly felt had my back. Cannot wait to see what he can accomplish out of office, now that will be fun to watch, as we know Democratic Ex-Presidents accomplish a lot out-of-office, while Repub Ex-Presidents paint bunnies and ducks.

    July 24, 2014 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  16. KungFuKool

    Legal status for immigrants is STILL the majority opinion in spite of the GOP election season propaganda machine running full speed ahead.

    July 24, 2014 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  17. rs

    And what does the GOP in Congress propose to do? An immigration bill passed the Senate, and the House refuses to act on it. Meanwhile the House needs to re-write Bush's 2008 bill that gives minors the protection they now seem to detest so much now. Will Congress get off its duff and do something, anything?

    July 24, 2014 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  18. rs

    Chris..E.al

    I have read that paid upwards of 7000 dollars to make the trip ? This is the dems fault they had heard that the dems wants to give all illegal a free pass and they would if n0t for the repubs opposition . The dems are still pandering till this day
    __________________________
    Obviously, because what? 9 year olds vote in America?

    July 24, 2014 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  19. rker321

    Until we have a comprehensive immigration law that will be enforced, none of this will matter, and nothing will be resolved.

    July 24, 2014 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  20. dmailand

    The vast majority of citizens have always felt this way, the current border crisis was just the final salt on the wound. However, it is the media's measurement that has been way off for some time and I am sure CNN will do as much as possible to under report the long-standing issue. I am surprised we haven't seen a deluge of sympathy pieces this week. What we have seen, however, is the left media not really talking about it since the public weighed in last week, massively saying we know what is going on and we are sick of it. I find that very interesting. For now, the media strategy is to bury it until Navarette can finish writing more sympathy articles.

    July 24, 2014 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  21. anony - mouse

    Put them ALL on buses, as soon as they 'arrive' – with a p-nut butter sandwich, container of milk, and an apple ... dropping them off in Tijuana and Juarez. THAT would spur their government leaders to action, due to pressures that the Mexican government would have to be responsible for (financially and morally). Then – beef up the US patrols in those two locations – poof – problem of continued drain on the American tax dollars solved. The message that needs to be sent to the parents? WE (North Americans) will not harbor and support your children! Sorry . . .

    July 24, 2014 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  22. FairCitizen

    I imagine this is damage-control- paid-for- by-Obama Propaganda....Most ALL..upwards of 98% of Americans here we talk to are very opposed to the continueing free pass into our Lands...by criminals. It is a sorry day in hell that our Questionabl and apparently incompetent with no loyalty to our country or falg President desires to make a killing off the Americans and apaprently all white people that he hates.

    July 24, 2014 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  23. trogiah

    I believe the survey and article present a false dichotomy. Laws that appropriately and realistically deal with immigrants and border security will either both be accomplished or neither will be accomplished. It is unlikely that perfect solutions can be found but we can do much better.

    July 24, 2014 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  24. txan

    Well, I'm a Dem, and I would love to see a secure border. That said, the border isn't secure and it is not the fault of, nor should it be taken out on, refugee children.

    July 24, 2014 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  25. PSPtruth

    Maybe CNN wishes this but I say send them all back!

    July 24, 2014 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
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