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. Scott

    Gee, I'm surprised Americans don't want the strain on our already strained infrastructure, increased drug crime and violence in their communities. Just raise taxes on the middle class to pay for this...

    July 24, 2014 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  2. kattman

    No other civilized country would allow their borders to be invaded, have their countrymen pay for illegal criminals, just another sign America is weak and leaderless until 2016 .

    July 24, 2014 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  3. Clay Anders

    Why is it so hard to send them home. This country had no problem enslaving black people, tearing children from there families, to never be seen again. Let something happen to one white child, everybody will go crazy. Imagine your child being taken away, never to be seen again. Think if your child were taken. The thought is horrible., but it happened to millions of black Americans . So what is so hard about sending illegal children back to their home and parents.

    July 24, 2014 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  4. timothy

    What makes a country beyond geographical borders? Language, culture, common sense of right, wrong, mores...We are no longer the country we were and we will never return to what we once were. Question is, what will we become. Will we grow more fragmented and less able to build a country together or will we somehow find ways to bind us all? If we allow our laws ro fall away, if we disagree on constitutional protections, if we are tehered to no document or tradition or spiritual belief system...what is it that will bring us together when we disagree on so many things. Other than in name only...are we a country all can or will be proud. Then of curse, the act of creation calls for destruction...we must be in a mode of destruction if we are seekig to create something new but what gets created when no one agrees with what it is we wish to create. Certainly we have seen the amazing growth as a people. I suppose i is time to pay for that with what follows.

    July 24, 2014 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  5. Center Mass

    Nobody so far has mentioned the health issues brought into this country by the illegals. We all know who is going to pay for that !
    And I wonder …if they have $7000.00 to spend why not stay home and take care of their own families ?
    Also…… the National Guard should be sent to Washington D.C. to keep Obama out of the White House.

    July 24, 2014 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  6. DRAKE MALLARD

    Marco Rubio said immigrants seeking asylum should not be given preference.He wanted US immigration authorities to stop giving preference to migrants who are seeking asylum. But Cubans should be subject to the same immigration requirements as any other would be immigrant. . So either grant automatic legal status as soon as they set foot on American soil, or make Cubans go through the same process as any other immigrant. Until then, just another hypocrite.There should not be a "wet foot, dry foot" policy Will the Birthers Scrutinize Marco Rubio's U.S. Citizenship? Marco Rubio born to Cuban exiles? Not true, after all."Marco Rubio Lied About His Cuban Exile Immigrant Background"His parents came to this country in 1956 looking for economic opportunity. They declared at that time they intended to stay permanently. The fact that Castro came to power in 1959 makes a nice excuse to claim his parents were exiles, but it's simply not true. They came here looking for opportunity and assumed they'd be able to return to Cuba for visits whenever they could. Castro complicated the latter, but didn't change the former.”which makes Rubio a common anchor baby of a common economic migrant . with the added cop-out of claiming "Dry Foot Hot Track Status", denied to every OTHER economic immigrant coming here .

    July 24, 2014 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    All these illegals should live next to liberals-see how fast these change their minds

    July 24, 2014 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  8. I'mnotAmerican

    It's funny they just voted on tax cuts for the wealthiest and now they refuse oh how lovely

    July 24, 2014 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  9. beaner

    Obama's weak attempt to close the borders and push for citizenship for illegals have encouraged the border busters to flow into the country. But he is never held accountable for any of his pratfalls.

    July 24, 2014 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  10. libs are awful

    Any doubt liberals care more for illegals than the American taxpayer.

    July 24, 2014 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  11. kamarasune

    No Americans are sick of being flooded by illegals when they lost half the job market thanks to NAFTA that was suppose to be the cure-all for this problem.

    July 24, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  12. jmercantilist

    Some people would support a moderate amnesty. But they want an end to immigration crime and they do not support the massive increase in legal immigration that cheap labor interest and those that identify more with other countries than the US put in the Senate bill. More immigration crime is too much for Americans – it convinces many the enforcement is the cornerstone of any fix to the immigration system. The problem is not that there are too few immigrants. The problem is pathetic enforcement.

    July 24, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  13. notfooledagain

    Give 2 week notice, then close all boarder crossing with Mexico, stop all money transfers to Mexico. Tell Mexico it will stay that way until they stop foreign national from crossing the boarder. I suspect in about another week the problem would be over.

    July 24, 2014 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  14. Klue

    As two of the prior posters illustrate (the two morons before Chris..E.al) – the parasites already abound, and they wish to flood the country with even more 3rd world parasites.

    July 24, 2014 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  15. Know Your Subject

    The predictable flood of children crossing the border did not produce the anticipated reaction of compassionate acceptance. Maybe the Administration can regroup and find a strategy that the American public will accept.

    July 24, 2014 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  16. bama

    What is wrong with the American people? Who is going to invite all the poor children of Gaza, Palestine, ISIS controlled Iraq, Russia controlled Ukraine, and North Korea to enter the US through the Mexican border? He lets in a tidal wave from Central America, and now you expect him to listen to the citizens of the US and turn off the free entry, free entitlements, and refuse entry to all dreamers of the world? Surely you don't expect Obamamama, Jeh Johnson, and Eric Holder to change course now simply because poll results are changing.

    July 24, 2014 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  17. Flush the US Congress

    All you need is two chain link fences with landmines in between and the problem is solved. Doesn't even cost much.

    July 24, 2014 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  18. tommyboy

    This is great. Send these "people" back where they came from.

    July 24, 2014 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  19. BC

    You can blame king Obama for this...NOT congress!

    July 24, 2014 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  20. Jenny

    Making all efforts possible to inform people from other countries (particularly Central America) about US immigration laws, and the grave dangers people put themselves in by trying to enter the United State illegally could be a win-win-win situation, I'd say. For as long as people from other countries believe that by paying thousands of dollars to 'coyotes'; by risking their lives; and/or turning themselves to immigration authorities they will be granted asylum or refuge status, the influx of illegals trying to enter the US illegally will continue...

    July 24, 2014 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  21. JC

    Lets see.....weren't many of the children who came to Ellis Island in the turn of the century (1900s) and beyond sent here all by themselves to escape poverty, strife, war, starvation, brutality, insane child labor laws, oppression, maltreatment, and political unrest? Their parents hoped for a better life for them. Many succeeded beyond anyone's wildest imagination and began companies whose survivors today are the very one's saying that we should send these children, who are crossing our borders, back to the unknown fate they await. In the 1900s, we found the children and the oppressed sponsors and/or family that came here before them. What does it say on the Statue of Liberty...something about 'give us your tired and weak....and we will care for them...' Where is your soul America? Have you forgotten the promise of freedom from oppression and strife? I am ashamed for those of my countrymen and women who have forgotten their heritage and ancestry.

    July 24, 2014 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  22. pj

    "A majority of northeasterners say legal status is most important, while majorities in the Midwest and South say border security is the top priority."

    Liberals perfectly willing to welcome criminals into fellow Americans neighborhoods, while they sip coffee and tell themselves how special they are. Anyone surprised?

    July 24, 2014 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  23. Larry

    Of course Democrats are in favor of more immigrants, these will be lifelong voters for the Blue Team. This is nothing more than Democrats buying votes with taxpayer dollars.

    July 24, 2014 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  24. pj

    51% ? Hardly. More like 90%, but liberals do not like to report reality, they like to report what they wish was reality.

    July 24, 2014 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  25. scott

    If you believe them polls then your a democrat its now where near that its more like 75% of all Americans want them deported and the border secure

    July 24, 2014 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
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