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. Ray.L

    secure the border 1st before any things else. The US is 17 trillions in debt do we really to spend more? i agree with Mr.
    Chris..E.al above .

    July 25, 2014 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  2. Barrack Obama

    CNN politics is lying, No American would want this kind of swarm into our country, Our government can't/won't even take care of Americans effectively. The law clearly list these illegal aliens in our country as criminals and MOST Americans want them deported.

    July 25, 2014 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  3. I've got the solution

    To all liberals that feel so passionate about letting in the poor children into the country; go down and adopt one. If all those compassionate liberal types, that feel so strongly about the issue, did that then they could all stay. Put your money and time where your mouth is.

    July 25, 2014 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  4. sedwards51

    1) Secure the border. Lots and lots of boots on the ground.

    2) Build the wall.

    3) Amend the Clinton 2000 bill that was re-authorized by Bush in 2008 and now re-re-authorized by Obama. It doesn't matter who's name on it. It's being abused and needs to be amended.

    4) Deport as fast and as publicly as possible.

    5) Hefty fines for anyone (business or individual) hiring anyone that can't pass e-verify.

    July 25, 2014 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  5. CALIFORNIA

    Security is the obvious choice.

    July 25, 2014 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  6. Bob

    LOL at this phony garbage.

    July 25, 2014 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  7. walter

    all of these so called "poor and unaccompanied" children coming to our borders are scams by the illegals this is a win,win,situation for the illegals more children equals more welfare checks! and you silly Americans are paying for it!

    July 25, 2014 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  8. Tom

    Hey, remember when all the liberal socialists were telling the Republicans that they must embrace the Latino voter in order to survive as a party? Remember when they said that, in order for the Republican party to survive, it must embrace amnesty, since that would be the only way to "reach out" to the Latino community?

    Well, well, well....it appears as though that was a LIE to begin with, a LIE that we all knew to be true.

    Americans do NOT want amnesty, we want secure borders.
    Americans do NOT want more ILLEGALS, we want far, far fewer.

    It appears as though the American people are in agreement with the Republicans, as this poll proves.

    It appears that the vast majority of the American people do NOT want amnesty and that this Obama-sponsored ILLEGAL invasion is backfiring in the most profound way.

    Four months before the election that will decide the fate of the senate, the majority of Americans are rallying behind the Republicans in their disgust at the blatant attempts by the liberal socialists to garner votes by the same Latino community by welcoming in and promoting an invasion of ILLEGALS.

    Well, the liberal socialists have never been too smart. In fact, they are idiots.

    July 25, 2014 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  9. king

    Dem has a plan to stop illegal coming to country, its called a comprehensive immigration bill. If the house had passed this bill, illegal in this country would have to go through the immigration process bringing in hundreds of billions to this country's treasury billions of dollars would be allocated to borer security. Why are the repubs dragging their feet on this one. Every day they procrastinate, there is thousand crossing the border.

    July 25, 2014 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  10. ComeOn2013

    It's sad that it took a crisis of this magnitude to wake people up. The truth is that illegal immigration has been a huge problem for a long time, but the liberal ideology of looking the other way has always dominated the national discourse. Glad to see it shifting!!

    July 25, 2014 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  11. badtobone

    Democrats support for criminal is unreal.
    even there mouth peace Harry Reid said the border is secure.

    July 25, 2014 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  12. Owen P

    "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." What planet are you living on? As long as CNN puts out pseudo journalism they will remain a second rate news organization.

    July 25, 2014 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  13. Arizona-Joe

    I still have the same opinion as in February. Put as many US troops as needed to secure the border! Deport the 20-30 million illegals currently in the country. Then & only then can you reform immigration policies.

    American defends other countries borders better then it defends it's own, now what's wrong with that picture? If Obama wants to spend 3.7 billion on children, make it American children. We can't fix the world until we first fix ourselves.

    "charity begins at home" JMHO

    July 25, 2014 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  14. Michael,Chapel Hill

    If anyone do not want understand legal vs illegal immigration, they may make all partisan comments. Why should the US support illegals when they could come to US legally. Rewarding law breakers may lead to more people breaking the law to be in the US.

    July 25, 2014 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  15. Ken

    Excellent! The Democrats tried to milk these children crossing the border for emotions and sympathy, hoping to swing additional votes in the coming mid-term elections. But their entire strategy has back fired. Instead of more people wanting to support immigration to aid the children, more now want tougher border security. Oh what as that delightful smell? It smells like the Republicans taking control of the Senate in November. Close to 100 days until the elections, and everything is looking bad for the Democrats.

    July 25, 2014 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  16. Reporter?

    Lost of hate out there tonight towards the GOP. I guess that's what one gets for trying to follow the law and support keeping our Nation's border an actual border instead of hosting boarders that violate it.

    July 25, 2014 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  17. general zod

    let's face it people, the majority of these people coming over here have little to no education and will become lifelong dependents of taxpayer assistance (aka democrats) they drive down wages and they only do the 'jobs that americans won't do' because they are getting paid under the table and thus pay no taxes. quite a few operate cars and do so without a license or insurance.
    but it isn't long before they crank out a half dozen or more anchor babies. i saw an article last fall about an illegal who sneaked in with her folks at 14. by 15 she'd dropped out of high school to have her 1st of 6 babies (so far) well, she was 36 then and became a grandmother at 33 when her oldest had his 1st kid.
    of course her oldest son though he finished high school, dropped out of a vocational school owes thousands in loans and is unemployed. just wonderful!!

    July 25, 2014 01:35 am at 1:35 am |
  18. jewoodbur

    WHAT? People are finally waking up? I don't believe it...trouble is...it's too late....

    July 25, 2014 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  19. mike zuka

    The American People have ALWAYS been opposed to Illegal Immigration because they understand how it undermines our sovereignty and our economy. The American people are being required to subsidize the education, and housing of illegal children while their parents take American jobs and suppress our wages. The American people are awake and aware and they are going to CRUSH to New World Order at the Polls!!!

    July 25, 2014 01:49 am at 1:49 am |
  20. cp

    NONE should be allowed to stay if they've crossed the border ILLEGALLY, PERIOD.

    July 25, 2014 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  21. Daniel

    Are you all mental, 200,000 illegally crossed our borders since October and only 50K are kids. Why on Gods green earth would we allow anyone to jump the line (which is the most generous immigration country in the world) and come in and take unskilled jobs away from our Liberal neighbors?

    July 25, 2014 02:12 am at 2:12 am |
  22. Anonymous

    You want my attitude. As you mark an unwanted letter. RETURN TO SENDER.

    July 25, 2014 02:16 am at 2:16 am |
  23. MMECitizen

    If persons of any age come illegally into the USA they should be immediately be shipped back to where ever they came from. No hearings, no months or years waiting on the US taxpayers' dime for a hearing, no processing them, just turn them around and send them back....period!

    July 25, 2014 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
  24. Larry

    This illustrates the simple power of the media. There have been many people killed in this country by illegal immigrants since February. Many lives ruined. But what happens? The media attempts to launch a pro-illegal immigrant campaign in the guise of a humanitarian campaign and it backfires. Maybe it was the $3.7 billion price tag. Maybe it was something else. People need to understand the costs of illegal immigration. We do not need reform. We need unilateral enforcement.

    July 25, 2014 03:02 am at 3:02 am |
  25. Concerned Netizen

    CNN has spun their view of public opinion so far, they wouldn't know a real americans opinion even if they came across one by accident. Wagging the Dog is too old a strategy to be effective in this day and age.

    July 25, 2014 03:05 am at 3:05 am |
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