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. Wes

    The border is a disaster.

    July 24, 2014 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  2. Galactus

    Rewarding illegal aliens with Amnesty and other benefits just encourages more illegal immigration. We need our immigration laws enforced and all illegal aliens should be deported. No illegal aliens should ever be employed in the United States. We need a Federal Government that will just do their job.

    July 24, 2014 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  3. witchdoctor

    Take a poll of the people who live in the communities that will have their schools put into a crisis mode because the teachers are not prepared to teach children that cannot speak or understand english, or the hospital ER's of small towns that looks like the DMV, or the law enforcement agecies that do not have the resources to deal with gangs. The liberal nimbies have no clue on how this immigrant Tsunami affects the border state communities.

    July 24, 2014 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  4. JC

    To those who criticize what I've written above. Look to our history and labor statistics and stories of immigrant people who came to this country with hope for a better future. In most cases, the majority were successful in work, starting families, paying taxes, and living law abiding lives. They contributed to America's prosperity and leadership in the world. They volunteered to fight in our wars and they sacrificed to make a better life for themselves and those around them. So, please, don't criticize what you don't or are unwilling to understand and accept. These people coming to our country are our future generations and, all they ask for is a leg up and a helping hand. An investment of a little kindness now will pay many dividends later......it has been proven time and again in this country.

    July 24, 2014 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  5. impoundguy

    WOW...seems the only people who are unwilling to acknowledge those stats are the Politicians who are more worried about getting re-elected with the help of the illegals then they are about listen to those who "are" legal and put them into office to begin with.

    July 24, 2014 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  6. Sharon

    It's past time that the administration grew a pair and do what the American citizens/taxpayers are calling for. We can't afford or absorb any more illegals into this country. The legal migration into this country in the 1800's and early 1900's was one thing, but this has gotten out of hand. We have millions of actual American citizens who have lost their jobs and homes. There are Americans whose dream has been shattered because they are being beaten into the ground paying for illegals coming in and demanding everything. If they can pay thousands of dollars to get here, then they can stay in their own country. Make your government and military take care of your problems there. We've had enough of the violent gangs coming from Central America and the serious drain on local communities paying for the illegals welfare. For those of you hoping to send your kid to college, forget about it. You'll be paying for the illegals for more years than you want to count. Add to this the diseases that are brought in and loss of good paying jobs in construction industry. Companies will pay them pittance to save money, shoddy construction will occur and the taxpayers will always be footing the bill. If you paid attention to the news lately, it stated how over $2 billion was sent in remittances to these countries by illegals working here. That's $2 billion taken out of our economy.

    July 24, 2014 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  7. Sean

    Chris E,
    I had also heard that some central american countries are advertising to their people that they should go to the US as a solution

    July 24, 2014 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  8. jimmy hernandez

    This happens because this Administration has given green light for all the ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS to come to U.S.A to be supported. This government gives all kind of aid to the illegals, but not to the VETERANS, people who fought for this country. THE ILLEGALS ALIENS DO NOT HAVE TO WAIT TO BE ADMITTED IN A HOSPITAL LIKE THE AMERICAN VETERNAS, THEY RECEIVE HOSPITALIZATION, FOOD, MILK, EDUCATION, TRANSPORTATION, HOUSING, $1700.00 every year from the IRS FOR EACH ILLEGAL ALIEND UNDER 17 years old. IT IS BETTER TO BE ILLEGAL AND RECEIVE SO MANY BENEFITS WITHOUT PAYING ANY TAX.

    July 24, 2014 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    There is no new "crisis" on the southern border. It's the same there as it's been for at least the last 50 years. It's just now these Tea Party crazies are yelling louder than anyone else so people are getting their noses all out of joint about the goings-on along the border. (For better or worse.) But it's certainly nothing new.

    July 24, 2014 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  10. M Cartminez

    At this point we have to make everyone who ignored our laws and came here a citizen. It's too late and too impractical to do anything else.

    Every time I see a wealthy person on TV, I think to myself how unfair it is that they got so lucky. I'm going to rob one of them. I know it's TECHNICALLY illegal but c'mon, it's fair right?

    July 24, 2014 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  11. JC

    I'd like to see our natural born citizens pass the vetting process the immigrants go through. I doubt most of them would even be able to meet the criteria and pass the tests that one goes through to gain citizenship in this country. The immigrants have a true appreciation of our history and what it takes to be a U.S. citizen, and they vote in every election because many of them have come from countries where voting is a joke or not extant at all.
    Yes,, we should screen them at the borders and make an effort to discourage them from coming in droves by working with their country's leaders to develop proper channels and interdiction of gangs and near-do-wells who prey on the weak. But, once they are here, we should make every effort to care for them....their journeys are not easy, and their stamina and effort should be recognized for what it is......a desire for freedom and a better life elsewhere where they can be productive and grateful for the chance of being part of this great country.

    July 24, 2014 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  12. John

    Laughable......only 400,000 illegal immigrants crossed the border in 2013 down 250% from the average 1 million that occurred for the 23 year period between 1983 and 2005.....and now we have 40 or 50 thousand kids, obviously a crisis but a manageable one, and this now becomes the newest Fabriscandal....What happened to the days when we AMeriicans could walk and chew gum at the same time...

    July 24, 2014 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  13. 1776usa2016

    While GOP cronies exploit cheap immigrant labor every chance they get, the GOP has whipped up its trailer park sheep into a frenzy where they want to shoot little refugee children escaping cartel violence in their home countries.

    .

    July 24, 2014 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  14. Truth_Nanny

    Dont import poverty and misery. Those people are already the reject of Latin America, they dont change their ways. when are you going to get it ??

    July 24, 2014 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  15. John

    Amnesty or even refugee status simply adds fuel to the fire that propels even more people to make the journey since they know the liberals will push for yet another amnesty.

    We have millions of would be immigrants doing it the right way so why should they be pushed to the back of the line to accommodate individuals who entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas because we have an administration unwilling to combat the problem? Ideally, these same liberals, religious groups and Hispanic activists would be better served to take their good deed efforts to the affected countries so these people would not have to make the journey in the first place.

    As to the violence, let the Organization of American States provide peace keeper law enforcement support. The Obama administration could send law enforcement support to assist in training these countries to handle their gang problems, not that we do not have our own. Again, no amnesty and minimal refugee claims.

    July 24, 2014 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  16. ricke1949

    Enough is enough

    July 24, 2014 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  17. Alan B

    The most recent report (released last Friday afternoon) – shows 60% are not children, and 80% of those under 18, are with their parents.. it's a big scam. They paid $5k – $7k each... many are wearing $400 custom designed jeans
    .
    $54k per person – couldn't that be used to help those here... legally?
    .
    How about giving $54,000 to 70,000 Veterans?
    .
    Or giving every (legal) child a free laptop in grade 6 and grade 9?

    July 24, 2014 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  18. David

    Send them back

    July 24, 2014 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  19. Robert

    In my view, if someone wants to rant about "illegals," they lose the moral high ground when they choose to do so on a thread dealing with little children who may have been abused, assaulted, raped or heaven knows what else either before or during their perilous trek in seek of a better life.

    July 24, 2014 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  20. Charlie

    Any behavioral psychologist can tell you that one of the few facts of which we are certain is this:
    If you reward any behavior, you get more of it,
    if you punish any behavior, you get less of it.
    It really IS that simple. And that is why amnesty–by any name–is a prescription for disaster.

    FACT: If we continue to accommodate illegal immigration by offering legal status, this will be seen abroad as a message that we condone illegal immigration, and we will forever be faced with the problem.

    July 24, 2014 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  21. Perplexed User

    "Legal status for immigrants". Uhh, that doesn't make sense. That's not the issue/debate. Immigrants that go through the due process are already "legal". So the question should be rephrased: "support and make legal status for illegal aliens?". Guarantee that result would be vastly different. Also I seriously doubt it's only 45%. If there was a national poll tomorrow, I guarantee more than 3/4 of the country will say no to illegal aliens being housed and cared for and all the destruction it brings with it on a taxpayer's dime.

    July 24, 2014 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  22. Tough USA

    Send them all back. No hearings. Feed them, treat them and fly them back or let the pro immigration protestors adopt and take of them. But maybe they are just protestors.

    July 24, 2014 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  23. Doug J.

    If we continue to flood our country with poor, third-world people, our standard of living will continue to decline. And it doesn't make sense to try and enforce the border if we're going to give them a free education, free healthcare, food stamps, welfare, etc... once they make it past the border. If they aren't able to get public benefits or a job when they come here, then they won't come.

    July 24, 2014 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  24. pasttheeleventhhour

    While both sides of the aisle are angling for political leverage over this "crisis" as everyone newly seems to be calling it just over the last few months, where in the heck was the outrage all along? Seriously, this is nothing new folks. Go back through history and look at yearly apprehension rates for illegal border crossers. Guess how many arrests back in 1986 during Regan just in the San Diego region. Any takers? Answer: More than. 180,000 in one part of California alone.

    So, the attitudes are shifting more toward sealing borders and outprocessing those here illegally. Why is that? Because of the media coverage in the recent months covering the poor refugee children, <-So labeled to make them seem like they're all fleeing death and persecution in thier native country. Last time I checked we have endemic rates of violence, hate, poverty, joblessness, and vitriolic partisanship ripping this country apart better than any Jihaddy trash who would love to detonate a biologic agent over the superbowl. It should not be our unwritten policy to open the door and invite everyone south of the US/Mexican Border into our country because of whatever screwed up conditions they're own crappy 3rd world corrupt system of government is serving up.

    Back to my point about the sudden interest in the "humanitarian crisis" we're bumbling through, and the resulting shift in public opinion: If you want to see a real shift in the American attititude, bring your throngs of journalists to highlight what the Border Patrol, and ICE, are facing on a daily basis. Then take a look at the increase in crime rates where these folks establish communities. Make it a priority to report on the absolute invasion taking place right under our noses. I believe you would see poll numbers higher than 80-90% demanding a sealed border and expedited deportation proceedings. I challenge you all to ponder those facts.

    These poll numbers are weakly representative, because they are largely yielded on only a single facet of what has been happening en masse for decades.

    July 25, 2014 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  25. Jeff

    Ooooh, oooh! I'VE got an idea! Let's make strategic national policy on the basis of POLLS!

    July 25, 2014 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
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