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. Srcactus

    The only thing missing?
    Leadership!
    But Air Force 1 working just fine.

    July 24, 2014 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  2. Frank Fletcher

    All of Theses Illegals Must Go Now! Join Us on Our March to Take Back America Day on September 1,2014 March on Washington DC Show Your Support For Your Kids and Your Grandkids Life in The America We all Grew up in Not Obama's Trashing of America!!! We The American People are Tired of This If you Need Photos I can Send Them to You of Illegals Hanging Around the 7-11 in Manassas Virginia and Woodbridge Virginia Drinking and Defecating around the Building and Throwing Trash Ever Where. There Anchor Girl Friends or Wife's Making Food on the Road Side with Food Stamp Money that is Our Tax Dollars at Work! What I and The Other Citizens Would Like to Know is When are The Men, Woman And Children are Going to be Deported Back to Their Countries There Has Been Going on Way to Long To Many Illegals Have Ignored That Have Entered The Country There Has Been no Passage of Any Laws Allowing any of Them Amnesty and There Should Be None They Broken The Law By Crossing The Border Illegally Then after Entering Our Country They Have Obtained False Drivers Licenses, Social Security Cards and Birth Certificates Each of These Are Class 1 Felonies. I will be Writing The Commissioner of The Division of Motor Vehicles of Virginia to Find Out How and Why They are Giving Know Illegal Aliens Drivers Licenses . When a Person Like Me That has Been in Prince William County Since 1966 has to Jump Thru Hoops to get a Licenses I had to Show My Birth Certificate. Pass Port and Electric Bill from a Home it Took 4 Trips to The DMV to get My Licenses. Yet we Have 50 to 60 or More Men Sitting on the Road Side I Know They are Illegals and Nothing is Getting Done This Has Been this Way for at Least 19 Years or Better. Why?

    July 24, 2014 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    One of the very few things that the federal government is actually required to do by the U.S. Constitution is to defend our borders, and unfortunately the Obama administration has willingly chosen to leave our borders completely wide open.
    1)The Obama administration has distributed flyers that tell illegal immigrants that their immigration status will not be checked when they apply for food stamps.
    2)The Department of Homeland Security says that it has lost track of a million people that have entered this country but that appear never to have left.
    3) The federal government actually has a website that teaches immigrants how to sign up for welfare programs once they arrive in the United States.
    4) The Obama administration recently introduced the very first “unmanned” border station along the Texas-Mexico border.
    5) According to the FBI, there are approximately 1.4 million gang members living in our cities. Illegal immigration has been one of the primary factors that has fueled the growth of these gangs.
    6) A government-contracted security force threatened to arrest doctors and nurses if they divulged any information about the contagion threat at a refugee camp housing illegal alien children at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

    "When injustice becomes LAW, resistance becomes our DUTY"

    July 24, 2014 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  4. ThomasS666

    I don't necessarily assign some nefarious deception to the people who advocate FOR the (illegal) immigrants, but by allowing illegals into our country, we ENCOURAGE them to (1) expect that our existing LAWS are more like 'guidelines' and, (2) to retain their culture; including parts which have made THEIR countries 'hell holes' from which they flee and, (3) tacitly abet yet MORE lawbreakers to come on in.
    We can NOT 'heal THEIR problems' and raise THEIR standard of living by DECREASING our own.
    I have absolutely NO problem whatsoever with people coming to this country via LEGAL means, I simply don't care for criminals, regardless the excuse FOR that criminality!

    July 24, 2014 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  5. David H. Thoreau

    Once again, CNN publishes a poll taken by ORC , a polling company owned and operated by a wealthy Tea Party contributor so conservative that he considered Mitt Romney too liberal.
    Depending on how polling questions are phrased and how the polling sample is chosen, polls can be manipulated by a pollster to come to any conclusion the pollster wants.
    Should an admitted partisan be entrusted to run polls on partisan issues? That would be analogous to having one party alone supervise an election's integrity.

    July 24, 2014 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  6. Hank

    We cannot and should not allow ourselves to show that we have a weak link in our national border security. The world is not what it was. Ruthless blood lusting groups of people are spreading out across the globe looking to penetrate good nations like ours. To become complacent with aliens sneaking over from Central America through Mexico is reckless and a detriment to our peace and way of life. You may think that nothing bad will ever come from Central America through Mexico but i assure you, various sick and evil persons are watching our nation and trying to figure out ways to arrive and infiltrate our society, then destroy it with their radical murdering ways. Today it's "refugee" youths, tommorrow what do you think may slip over if we are not forceful in our approach to border safety and vigilance?

    July 24, 2014 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  7. mike

    Americans would have more sympathy for the illegal children except we are FED UP with the 20,000,000,plus their offspring anchor babies draning, social programs, healthcare, education!!!! And all illegal law breaking scum!

    July 24, 2014 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  8. BUD

    The gang of 8 plan that couldn't get by the house was a bipartisan plan that would have helped but the GOP blocked it.

    July 24, 2014 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  9. anthony

    all of those stupid democrats keep blaming Bush never stop. I agree Bush signed the law in 2008 but what party made the law in 2008: democrats. Now the problems happen under Obama and they try to spin. They keep criticize that law, why they try to rid of it if it is not good. Dont try to spin both ways

    July 24, 2014 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  10. mike

    The Libs (Commies) want to start calling these so called children ( already plenty of proof that most are teens, and older adults) Refugees, Instead of ILLEGAL invaders. Then set up a refugee camp on the Mexico side of the border,Move all the Illegals there, with the unaccompanied children .Let the UN deal with them . DONE !

    July 24, 2014 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    What about the millions of dollars in foreign aid that is sent to the countries that these people are fleeing from? I thought that money was supposed to be going to these people not lining the pockets of their politicians! I reccomend sending all these children back to their homes. They are bringing untold diseases into the USA. Do we really want a pandemic? Cut off ALL foreign aid to the governments of the countries these people are coming from until they start taking care of their citizens. I thought that was what the foreign aid was for in the first place. It is not the USA's responsibility!!!

    July 24, 2014 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  12. No Truth In This

    The simple fact of the matter is none of the media is reporting the truth. There are far more adults crossing over here than children. It's more like 15 -20% of them are children. The rest are adults and many of them criminals, raping, robbing and killing people when they get here. I have lived in South and South East Texas all my 61 years on this earth. I used to hunt down in Zapata Tx. had a real nice camp house there. It got to where my friends and I could not got there, because the illegals took it over. We locked the doors and windows, they would break them and get in, we would repair them, put bars on the doors and windows the would tear them off. The final straw came when we were left a note by the illegals. It said, you are no longer welcome to come here, but we expect you to leave the electricity on, pay for it, leave food in the cabinets and the doors unlocked and unbarred, if you don't we will burn this house to the ground. Now thats not children doing that. It is so bad down there that even though it on American soil English is almost unspoken, there are no radio stations in english there. I talked to several people there and you dare not leave your home for any length of time because when you come back there will be nothing left in it. Are little children doing this? Call me hard hearted if you want, I don't care. I say ship all them back even the children, they will become adults at some point and be competing with US citizens for virtually non existent jobs.

    July 24, 2014 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  13. Badly-Bent

    Still waiting for Florida Governor RICK SCOTT to make good on his campaign promise to bring the Arizona immigrations laws here to Florida. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    July 24, 2014 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  14. D

    Well I'm sorry it has come too late for the country but I'm very glad more people are starting to see this is for the problem it really is.

    July 24, 2014 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  15. Paul

    I thought the border was secure..

    July 24, 2014 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  16. John B

    Why is the media hiding the illnesses these Illegals have, bringing them into the US...CNN usually spends a ton of coverage on health or is this too sensitive????

    July 24, 2014 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  17. matthewharris880

    Who even cares? Immigration doesn't affect anyone with a "real" career.

    July 24, 2014 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  18. memberofearth

    Only the brainless want to give these illegasl refugee status. Even after Obama has been elected twice, I still refuse to accept the majority of the voting public are brainless. I guess that doesn't bode well for my common sense. Alas, hope springs eternal.

    July 24, 2014 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  19. kenman14

    It is pathetic that 61% of Democrats STILL think giving amnesty to all those millions already here ILLEGALLY so that we can clear the slate and start the mess all over again!

    It is also silly to state that a "bare majority" believe EXACTLY WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE and the news is telling them, that these people (only about 20% unaccompanied "children:) are refugees, when we really have no way of knowing WHO they are, much less WHERE they came from!

    The public, like the WH and news, apparently have not considered the reality that many of these hoards are likely Mexicans that jumped into the crowd, seeing a great opportunity to pass through with the throngs!

    Wake UP America!

    July 24, 2014 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  20. Thomas

    Why doesn't anybody want to immigrate to Russia or China ?

    July 24, 2014 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  21. jj

    "bare majority" 57%-41% margin Mr. Steinhauser, your bias comes-out and will always come-out with your choice of words. One can not hide what is in one's heart for long. The folks who are against immigration and immigrants would like US to be run like Israel. May be they and you should say what is on their mind and your mind straight and loud. No need to hide it. May be if President was alive and could join this opposing crowd will say "Mr. Gorbechev tear down this wall and build it down in Texas".

    When it comes to immigration the American public is totally kept in dark. They have no clue on what it takes to migrate to this country. What causes folks from south America to migrate and what US can and should do to help its neighbors. For one thing, why not train the folks in those poor countries to make the Nike that is made in China. Why not work with the folks down south of US, help them fish train them to fish (in conservatives language). Helping neighbors succeed is the right thing to do and a better way to address issues than to build fences and bullets. Also, why not have work visas for the low skilled labor from south and a path to citizenship so, they are able to work and support US economy by being a gardener, house worker etc. Do You think God made a mistake by creating diversity. Nope. Those who think so are wrong. Diversity is THE STRENGTH and those who know how to help each other and work with each other are who will succeed. Isolation is a lucrative option to become desolated. God is never wrong.

    July 24, 2014 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  22. Ming

    “This is what the LORD Almighty said: Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.”

    July 24, 2014 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  23. Alan

    Why aren't the "refugees" trying to find refuge in Mexico?

    July 24, 2014 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  24. terry

    our government cause this problem with illegals just like the dem party cause slavery in america

    July 24, 2014 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  25. terry

    how we forget the dem party cause slavery the rep party fought and die to free the slaves even martin king was a rep

    July 24, 2014 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
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