CNN Poll: Big generational divide in immigration battle
June 18th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
10 years ago

CNN Poll: Big generational divide in immigration battle

Washington (CNN) - While a small majority of Americans are in favor of the immigration bill currently before the U.S. Senate, according to a new national poll the old and young don't see eye to eye on the issue.

And a CNN/ORC International survey also indicates that more than six in ten say border security rather than a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants should be the bigger priority.

The poll's Tuesday morning release comes as a bill backed by the bipartisan 'Gang of Eight' senators faces more legislative hurdles. The measure would offer a 13-year path to eventual citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the country. If the legislation passes through the Democratic Senate, it would face an uncertain future in the Republican dominated House of Representatives.

According to the poll, 51% say they support a bill that would attempt to increase border security and create a pathway to citizenship for many undocumented immigrants, with 45% saying they are opposed to such a measure.

"Support comes mostly from Democrats - six in ten favor the bill - with independents and Republicans split right down the middle," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "There is also a generation gap on this issue, with senior citizens opposed to the bill by a 17-point margin, while younger Americans tend to favor it."

The poll's release also comes as some GOP senators ready an amendment to the 'Gang of Eight' bill that they say would further bolster border security. Sixty-two percent of those questioned in the survey say that border security should be the main focus U.S. immigration policy, with 36% saying that creating an eventual path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants should be the top priority.

"Republicans and independents strongly support making border security the top concern, but even Democrats are split on this question," adds Holland.

There's also a generational divide, with those age 18-34 split on what's most important, and large majorities of those age 35 and older saying border security should be the top priority when it comes to immigration policy.

President Barack Obama and Democrats want to fulfill a promise to Hispanic Americans, the nation's fastest-growing demographic and a key voting bloc, to address the limbo of the 11 million immigrants living illegally in the country. If the bill becomes law, it would be one of the president's major legislative achievements of his second term.

But the poll indicates a majority of Americans don't give Obama a thumbs up on the issue. Only four in ten say they approve of the job he's doing on illegal immigration, with 56% saying they disapprove of his performance on the issue. Those numbers are little changed in CNN polling dating back to 2009, the president's first year in the White House.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International June 11-13, with 1,014 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

soundoff (381 Responses)
  1. Richard Long

    Riddle me this...
    How do you propose that we pay for the implementation if this immigration bill?
    – we got hit by the President's sequester.
    – our President has decided to fund another war in Syria
    – National Debt at $17 Trillion
    – unemployment rate over 7.4% for several years, thus a significant number of US citizens are not contributing to the economy or adding tax revenue
    – record number of people on welfare

    Nope... Not seeing the magical unicorns or the mythical tree of money promised in 2008 or 2012

    June 18, 2013 06:24 am at 6:24 am |
  2. Gurgyl

    At one point USA needs to tighten visa system. H1-B, J-1 visa guys are overstaying and not going home. Turning into illegals, brining ing their moms for out benefits thus robbing our SS, Medicare. Whose fault–our Congress and senate. Too many Indians are coming–to steal out benefits–watch out. Tighten immigration be it IT or Doctors. Not matter.

    June 18, 2013 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  3. j0nx

    In your dreams half. About 20% at best favor any kind of amnesty. Pull the other one cnn.

    June 18, 2013 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  4. bigtoe

    So what you're saying is, over half of Americans favor it? It is hard to push your agenda when you have to use the actual statistics, huh CNN.

    June 18, 2013 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  5. king

    lesson folks we have a huge 12 million problem of undocumented folks in this country, the questions is how do we remedy this. do we really want to ship 1/30th of our country people out of the country, what kind of effect that will that cost. Americans are not producing the next generations as we should, leaving our country like Europe with a lot of old folks. we need fertile folks in this country to bring on a vibrant next generation to take the place of our old folks. lesson folks America is changing like everywhere else. i understand that some folks just cant deal with changes, but that's the nature of earth. nothing stays the same. so its either we except changes gently or we fight like hell to prevent it, but it still going to happen.

    June 18, 2013 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  6. gijo7171

    Border Security First! Once we have secured the border then we can figure out the problem we have. We don't even know who is here for the most part. Go thru who is here and verify who they are and make them earn there US citizenship. No quick access, they came here illegally and should have to earn there right to be a US citizen. We can't cheapen this right or we just become a 3rd world country!

    June 18, 2013 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  7. hexxuss

    They ALSO need to make sure when they do these polls that no illegals are allowed to vote on them – of course THEY would be opposed to ANY measures that took away or lessened the freedoms they get (which should be NONE just based on the word ILLEGAL alone!!!)! STOP calling them "undocumented" for crying out loud – they are ILLEGALS!

    June 18, 2013 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  8. Sam

    Look up the word illegal and tell the American people they should be allowed to stay get in line like the rest of us

    June 18, 2013 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  9. McBob79

    Allowing 11 million illegals, most unskilled will break the bank because they will all apply for government assistance. Government assistance is at record levels since Obama took office and we simply can't afford 11 million new food stamp recipients.

    June 18, 2013 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  10. ronjayaz

    Looks like they're going to kick this one around till the leather wears off the ball.

    June 18, 2013 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  11. lgccac

    Any bill that leads to citizenship for illegal aliens is amnesty. It didn't work in the 80's and it won't work now. Since no one really knows how many illegals are here, the real number is probably closer to 30 million, not 11 million.

    June 18, 2013 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  12. liz48

    This is a uninformed write one denies that border security is a priority...making it a priority does not mean that a path to citizenship should be excluded...

    June 18, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  13. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    Border security is more important than a greasy path to USA citizenship. What happened to old-fashioned deportation?

    June 18, 2013 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  14. rla

    A nation of laws??? Really if this country had enforced after the 87 amnesty we would not have this problem. All we are doing now is playing political kick ball for votes -not solving the problem and transforming America in very mis-understood ways-- ALL BAD!

    June 18, 2013 07:30 am at 7:30 am |

    There is no divide if you ask the right question.

    Ask people if we should be going after EMPLOYERS for hiring illegals. It would solve the majority of the problem. Give them the three strike rule. First time they are warned. Second time they are given a huge fine. Third time they are shut down.

    That would solve the illegal immigration problem without the need for a 1200 page complicated Bill.

    June 18, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  16. BostonBob

    Bad bill, no enforcement, Call your Senators and Congresspersons to oppose it.

    Mandatory E-Verify for EVERYONE.

    June 18, 2013 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  17. woodie

    Meanwhile 99% of American's do not want amnesty for illegal aliens in this country.

    June 18, 2013 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  18. Bob

    One does not simply increase the benefits of coming to the US illegally and understand that an immediate influx of more illegals would ensue. The only way to make this work is to first completely, thoroughly secure the border, and then address the illegals that are currently within the country. Furthermore, the new bill doesn't offer a defined means to determine if an illegal has been here for years, or if they have just entered, so If the bill is enacted in the opposite order, or if border security is never done, then the 11 million illegals will quickly become 12, 13, 14 million, etc. The US already allows more LEGAL immigrants than all other countries, combine, so this fascination with/of illegals needs to end. It's an embarrassment for natural, tax paying citizens, and a direct slap in the face to all who've LEGALLY immigrated here (my heart feels for them).

    June 18, 2013 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  19. Dave Madden

    The first act tha occurs when an illegal immigrant walks across our borders is to break a law. They will break a law everyday they stay in this country illegally, and yet they wave our flag and say the right things to make Liberals feel sorry for them. Kind of like parrots. They are part of "The Kardashian" throw-away generation that holds nothing precious other than the dollar bill. What law or laws will be next that these illegal immigrants will demand be changed just so they can have an easier life? Where does it stop?

    June 18, 2013 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  20. BosMonkey

    We definitely need a huge increase in border security to hopefully reduce the number of people that make it into the country illegally.

    And, we do need to get these illegals that made it through, documented so they are made to pay taxes for the services they are taking from taxpayers. I am not sure still why that if we know they are illegal, they aren't just shipped out of the country though. That will always baffle me.

    June 18, 2013 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  21. timeforchange

    I have been saying for several years now that Obamacare will require tackling illegal immigration first. But this bill is amazing. It basically makes the 11M illegals exempt from obamacare until they become citizens 11-15 years from now.

    This will in effect, give these folks preferential hiring over american citizens. Not only this, it does nothing really to stop even more illegals from coming here and the entire cycle just continues.

    June 18, 2013 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  22. Walter

    There is a big divide in this country on nearly every issue. There is absolutely nothing united about the United States anymore, and it's time to end the charade and start talking about how we can divide the country in two.

    June 18, 2013 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  23. noteasilyswayed

    Two sides of the same coin..... want to fix the immigration problem? All that has to be done is to fine and imprison business owners who hire illegals. I guarantee you that it would be fixed in a very short time. Politicians are not going to do this, because the "job creators" would stop donating to their campaigns. They play us all for fools, while they continue to enrich themselves at our expense.

    June 18, 2013 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  24. PtBarnumBoy

    All you people who believe there are only 11 million illegal aliens in this country please reply to this comment with your email address or phone number. I've got some Pacific Ocean front property for sale in extreme western Kansas I'd like to sell you.

    June 18, 2013 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  25. CTed

    Illegal is illegal. There should not be a reward for breaking the law for a decade and not getting caught. All that says if you don't get caught long enough you will get away with it. No illegal should ever be granted citizenship, they have already proven they are willing to break our laws.

    June 18, 2013 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
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