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

    All I ask is that you support the law and provide legal immigration and stop invasions. It's very simple...have principals and laws...apply them.

    July 24, 2014 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  2. Dianne

    Legal status was always on table for those that have been in the United States for a lengthy period. It was never considered for those that recently entered. As a result, the current unusual border crisis does not change a thing in that argument. A great majority of these children will be returned to their countries of origin. Rest, those that manage to stay, will be able to do it by qualifying through different immigration laws that have been in existence for decades (asylum, etc.) and not due to an immigration reform. This article is biased and absurd.

    July 24, 2014 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  3. Cory111

    Hey, if we have the money to run around this little blue planet "Nation Building" and spending trillions of the latest killing equipment we can surely help a few kids out for a while.
    You can judge a nation by the way it treats it's elderly and it's children, even children from other countries.
    Bring our troops him and set up bases on the border. Then the expense of supporting bases all over the world will cease and that money is spent within our borders.

    July 24, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  4. Michael White

    What needs to be done is a focus on the countries these kids and people are coming from. Allowing them refugee status only encourages more illegal immigration. Heck, if they are paying $7000 or more for the trip, they could easily take that same money and pay the fees to just get a regular tourist visa and then apply for permanent residence. But that aside, until Obama and other high executive officials put their fingers into the chests of the leadership from other countries to fix their broken economic and social systems, this illegal alien problem isn't going away. Immigration reform and amnesty will not fix it.

    July 24, 2014 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  5. forreal89

    a bunch of takers and criminals DEPORT

    July 24, 2014 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  6. jenn,philadelphia

    Wouldn't it be nice if we could take care of the world's poor, sick and homeless, but that costs money and we should start with our citizens first. People are starting to realize that letting these people stay is going to cost them money.

    July 24, 2014 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  7. Lisa

    We need to GET OUT OF THE MIDDLE EAST AND CLOSE OUR BORDERS. No one is giving the US, free gas, free oils, free anything or payment back for anything that we do. We just get overran by illegals and the Middle East HATING us and wanting us dead. When do we say enough is enough and put away the red cape and realize we can't be the world's police!!!!

    July 24, 2014 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  8. rzanol300

    Nothing like a negative event or a serious crisis to wake people up.

    July 24, 2014 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  9. rzanol300

    Nothing like a crisis or a negative event brewing and ongoing to wake Americans up. People can say what they want, but we can not absorb everyone from the world here. The fact remains there is a legal way to immigrate to America. Those who choose to ignore the legal path and choose to break our laws are criminals whether they are 5 or 50 years old.

    July 24, 2014 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  10. BldrRepublican

    How to fix the problem???

    Send several busloads to each of the states in the Northeast....they seem to know how to take care of everyone, so let them show the "rest of us" how it's done.

    July 24, 2014 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  11. diluded000

    I wonder if people who want to "secure the border" understand just how far 1800 miles of border actually is, or just how much that will cost, or considered that as soon as the land border is secure, people will use the sea. Using a 1996 estimate of $20M per mile for an interstate highway, 1800 miles of highway would cost $36,000,000,000.00. But realistically, it could cost over a trillion dollars to build and staff our own happy little version of the Berlin Wall. Maybe if people in the US quit buying illegal drugs that go through these countries, there wouldn't be so many refugees from the drug gang violence. We made this problem ourselves, don't blame these little kids. But we will, and I predict more taxes, more big government debt to pay for throwing money at a problem that doesn't exist. Just let these kids move in with their relatives if they want to, and quit whining about it. It is cheaper than what could turn into the biggest government boondoggle project of all time.

    July 24, 2014 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  12. dan

    The Republicans will not spend $3 billion to secure our border, but they will spend billions on subsidies to billion-dollar industries like biotech , Big Ag, Big Oil ...they give $3 billion a year to Israel, but cannot vote that for our borders. They last week voted to give Israel more than $560 MILLION, which was 50% more than what was requested – of our money, just so that they can get re-elected with an AIPEC endorsement. They have highjacked our government and do not serve our interests.

    July 24, 2014 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  13. Gurgyl

    -ask why congress not passed immigration reform out of its six years. Why congress not put fence and border petrol and funding therefor. Instead of crying on president. Why didn't you cry when Bin Laden escaped. Why two wars? Drain on economy.why pumping in Pakistan too much money. Answer before you cry.

    July 24, 2014 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  14. x3zy

    Sorry but I immigrated to this country legally. My family was facing danger as well but we came here legally. Everyone else will do the same. I don't think this is a matter of them simply escaping danger. Violence has been in that region for years. It is nothing new. Rumors of amnesty is something that is forcing these children to come here. People say that I have no compassion for these children but I have about as much compassion as the parents or the leaders of the countries the children originate from. The leaders of these central American countries don't seem to help these children. I don't know what kind of parent would allow their child to walk across Latin America alone or with a coyote but any other person would be called disgusting and irresponsible.

    July 24, 2014 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  15. Dave

    Republicans are going to face the biggest backlash ever known this November. You can't keep attacking people without them eventually fighting back.

    July 24, 2014 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  16. BorisRoberts

    It isn't a partisan problem. It isn't because the Democrats this, the Republicans that. My God, the hate here is unbelievable. It is a National Security issue. It is an economic issue. And, it seems, both sides, and it shows in their actions, want them here, both sides own businesses, and both sides want the votes. The business owners on both sides, see these guys at a way to lower wages. And we KNOW the Democrats think the Latinos will vote Democrat, but the Republicans can play the religion card, since nearly all the illegals are Catholics, and want nothing to do with abortion. So there is a chance, if the Repubs play their cards right, that they can get the vote from some of them.

    But, who is going to pay to house these guys for months, years, etc., what about the babies? They don't use birth control, and I fearlessly predict, that the teen birth rate will skyrocket wherever these guys get put. Again, I ask, who is paying for all this? Their home country? No, they sent them here so they would send checks home. They are using the gang thing as an excuse, but they are sending them here so they will make money illegally and send it home. Since they are so broke, where do they get the money, the $7000 average they say it costs to send them here? The average in Guatemala is $200-$400 per month. Something isn't adding up. At that kind of wage, it would take 10 years to save up enough to send the kid here. It's all a scam just to get them here and making money. And both the Republicans and the Democrats, want them here, while the general population, doesn't want them here. Just the people making money off of them, and most of us aren't making money off of them, we are feeling the lower wages, the jobs being taken by them, and our neighborhoods are going down because of them.

    July 24, 2014 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  17. rti

    People be dumb. They be mocked for their xenophobic idiocy in a few decades.

    July 24, 2014 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  18. stephen48739

    As a nation, we must decide whether we are Ebenezer Scrooges or "Good Samaritans", regarding these undocumented border kids. I choose compassion.
    " But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion on him."
    – Luke 10:33

    July 24, 2014 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  19. Kim

    Americans are the most shameful people on the planet. It's because of having so many Christians.

    July 24, 2014 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  20. KBNJ

    In other words, after people learn more about something, they're more likely to look at it rationally and thoughtfully rather than react poorly to their emotions.

    July 24, 2014 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  21. TulsaJoe

    The issue is workplace enforcement. Border security is important but the crux of the issue is if illegal immigrants can't find jobs they won't be here. And the people who hire them know they are not in the country legally.

    July 24, 2014 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  22. DTOM

    These children are not refugees. 80% of the so called "Children" are 14-18. A majority are MS 13 gang members. Don't be fooled again America. ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT=CRIMINAL

    July 24, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  23. stephen48739

    As a nation, we must decide whether we are Ebenezer Scrooges or "Good Samaritans", regarding the undocumented border children on our nation's doorstep. I choose compassion.
    " But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion on him."
    – Luke 10:33

    July 24, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  24. rick

    Interesting AGAIN that you CONVIENTLY FORGOT to mention that the children is only 20% of the TOTAL comming across illegaly!!! And MOST are with adults! If that FACT were known by the people you are trying to sway to simpathy towards only children mentioned. Things of course would be much closer to telling the truth. So??? How about posting this comment. Or. It still will be distributed by other means that you CANT CONTROL by a single version..

    July 24, 2014 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  25. ronda

    Spend the money to SEND THEM BACK to where they came from! We Americans can no longer afford to feed and medical these people. Their countries would not do anything for us.

    July 24, 2014 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
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