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. stanjames

    REmember "give me your poor, your hungry your cold etc – the statue of liberty has it

    Repubs add if they are not people of color.

    Repubs again pandering to the party's base in the old confederacy where many still think the wrong side won the civil war

    July 25, 2014 03:24 am at 3:24 am |
  2. mark

    Bush made this law not Obama !

    July 25, 2014 03:26 am at 3:26 am |
  3. Thor

    Most polls are carefully worded to get a desired result. That's why most polls are bogus and shouldn't be considered as an accurate reflection of the American public. All you need to do is read the comments on any immigration article and you will know Americans overwhelmingly want enforcement at the border and deportation of illegals as found.

    July 25, 2014 03:34 am at 3:34 am |
  4. Motza

    I wasn't a sexual participant in the production of these children and therefore do not feel that I should be obligated for their future welfare. In other words, send em back, pronto!

    July 25, 2014 04:19 am at 4:19 am |
  5. Actions, not words

    Proof is in action, not words. Two Democratic Senators and one Democratic Governor have declared that they do not want these illegal aliens in their states. In the meantime, the only politician, a Republican Governor has welcomed them into his state. Democrats do not want an influx of illegal aliens just as much as Republicans however, as Pelosi likes to say, it's about the message the public hears (saying nothing about the actions taken).

    July 25, 2014 04:19 am at 4:19 am |
  6. McBob79

    They're breaking the law. When Americans break the law they go to jail, they don't get rewarded. It's as simple as that!

    July 25, 2014 04:24 am at 4:24 am |
  7. rick

    The TRUTH was on the national news this morning. A LOT of the children are ages 1-5 years old.!! It dont take a rocket scientist to figure that a 1 year old is ALONE on a trip from centeral america now DOES IT??? With a ADULT carrying them! Is only way they possibly got here! Nice try. But the actual truth is being told by those not biased. And thats the truth. The way you have described it for weeks is they are ALONE and traveled themselves. No child of under 5 can understand to keep going for 2000+ miles by themselves.

    July 25, 2014 04:26 am at 4:26 am |
  8. Smith

    What kind of legacy have the last couple administrations left for the American people? I believe it is the notion that those in power can selectively follow and enforce the laws while they are in power to the dismay of the public. It is also a lesson to the public to pick and choose the laws that they follow in their daily lives. The media is completely complicit in this area and is no longer a countervailing force to corruption as they agree with picking and choosing the laws that fit their left of center agendas.

    July 25, 2014 05:11 am at 5:11 am |
  9. Mike

    Send them all back....NOW!!! What exactly does the term child mean in this scenerio? We have a process for legally immigrating into this country that's been in place and working effectively for decades. This is absolutely a political ploy by the obama adminstration and it seems to be back-firing. I don't want any undocumented aliens housed anywhere near my family.

    July 25, 2014 05:11 am at 5:11 am |
  10. George

    How about this: work out a deal with Central America.
    In exchange for an adult who wants to work, student who wants to learn, or child who has ambition, they take, and support, one American entitlement recepient or prison inmate.

    July 25, 2014 05:35 am at 5:35 am |
  11. jeff

    These children are refugees. Don't call for them to be sent back and then call yourself a Christian.

    July 25, 2014 05:52 am at 5:52 am |
  12. Harry Legg

    Too late – the bad guys are already here with the politicians dragging their feet on what to do. Currently they are plotting their next terrorist act soon to be brought to you by al quida, isis and the US government.

    July 25, 2014 06:09 am at 6:09 am |
  13. Democratic Solution

    Create a govt solution for every problem on earth. Subsidize anti social behavior. Tax the rich for every program they can possibly think of. Create massive unfunded programs with no means to pay for it. Run up enormous debts, which they will one day come to the middle class to pay, which is where all the real money is. Blame everything on Bush. Every time someone says Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is insolvent, say "two unfunded wars". Play the race card whenever you can. Play the class card whenever you can. But mostly just keep sending the checks and our voters will keep pulling the D lever.

    July 25, 2014 06:15 am at 6:15 am |
  14. Janet Nappylotto

    Dems will continue to defy what US Citizens really want... Border Security. It totally goes against Obama's Amnesty-for-future-Democrat policy. They will continue to tag on Amnesty clauses to any bill for Border Security.

    Feel that stinging burning feeling between your shoulder blades? That's Obama and the Democrats stabbing you in the back for the sake of illegal immigrants.

    July 25, 2014 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  15. RobGinChicago

    Or, to rephrase the article headline, CNN Poll Finds That the American Public is Largely Uninformed, Easily Swayed, and Have Short Attention Spans.

    July 25, 2014 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  16. Jebbb

    Treat these children as you would want strangers to treat your children if they became refugees.
    If we can make that our guiding principle, we can work out the details.

    July 25, 2014 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  17. Anonymous

    The republicans / tea party will pass this bill I promise you. Watch they can't afford losing this many voters

    July 25, 2014 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  18. Donald c

    The republicans / tea party will pass this bill I promise you. They cannot lose this many voters

    July 25, 2014 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  19. Billy battle

    This independent voter will back any solution or candidate that kicks out every last illegal, takes away all the privileges these coward politicians handed them for votes, and give the rights traditionally reserved for Americans back to them. No more instate tuition, no free healthcare.

    It says on the Statute of Liberty give us your tired, poor, and hungry. But it's Americans who are tired, poor, and hungry and until you fix that close the freaking book.

    It is a perfect storm to sell out the American middle class: the democrats want cheap votes, and the republicans want cheap labor, so they are not going to do anything to help us, unless we the people not matter what party stand together and say enough, then they can't play sides or one against the other.

    July 25, 2014 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  20. belinda

    Texas Republicans, want to continue to waste Millions on accomplishing absolutely nothing. It's one disaster after the other. first it was the 100 million dollars, that we Texas tax payers, have to pay because Rick Perry is ever so kind to business's like WEST. That was insured , fpr only 1 Million. It's all about Corporate Welfare, that steals from the Middle Class to give a huge dangerous chemical company, permission to flatten a town full of men, women and children and get away with it. He thinks he has a chance at the Presidency ? What a joke. I will get a recall started, before the election starts. Remember my initials, Governor, BG ????

    July 25, 2014 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  21. Spgfld Tom

    Slogan of the week: "No one gets in until Obama gets out", Where in the U.S. Constitution does it state we have to take the castoff children of Guatemala? Send them back to their country of origin! Be sure to catch the photo of Nancy Pelosi cuddling up with the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvadore.....priceless. I wonder where Nancy stands on the issue of illegal immigration?

    July 25, 2014 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  22. Mitch

    More lies. Most of these are not UAC (unaccompanied children). Most have been in the charge of human smugglers PAID by the FAMILIES. Technically these children can be returned immediately. Just more Obama/Democrat liberal
    crap being crammed on the American public.

    July 25, 2014 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  23. Reality check

    They are not refugees. They are ILLEGALS.
    I understand that they are poor and the living conditions in their homeland isn't as good as the US but that doesn't make it right to break the law and for them to be given provision that isn't even provided to 1.9 million homeless Americans.
    Americans know our economy is doing poorly, millions of Americans are still out of work, and our budget is still skyrocketing.
    This political PC crisis does is not more important than our people. It is not more important than keeping Americans safe.

    July 25, 2014 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  24. dave

    you mean even liberals are finally figuring it out? stunned

    July 25, 2014 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  25. Reality check

    CNN and the writer of this article should be ashamed for printing false information regarding the percentages of American position in this situation. They are false and you can find the real consensus by reading data from the border states and across the US.
    The majority of Americans see these people as ILLEGAL Aliens which what they are as defined by law and reality.
    treat them with care and respect as human beings in need but hold them accountable to the law and deport.
    Close off the border now.

    July 25, 2014 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
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