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. Carolyn

    For what reason do most democrats support immigration reform? Answer: because they've been told it will help them win more elections. Do they realize that when an influx of millions of people are able to come out of hiding and be available for the workforce what impact that will have on middle class wages? Supply & demand is a realistic, demonstrated principle.

    June 18, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  2. Jason

    Not sure why a huge fence wasn't built 100 years ago or 50 or 25 or isn't being worked on today. The solutions being offered in congress do nothing to stop illegal immigration. It wouldn't be hard to stop 90% or more of the illegal immigration. Granted you aren't ever going to stop all of it. You can stop people walking across the border in broad daylight. Deport all illegals immediately. Let workers in on permits. Those workers get zero government benefits (no food stamps, no school for their children, no welfare, no healthcare). If they come to earn more money than they would in their country, let them do so. Their illegal crossing should not cost the US taxpayer a penny.

    June 18, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  3. Leif Pickett

    The main reason I've always hated this debate is the way it's worded.

    Only a few wackjobs have any issue with "immigration," I'd think–although advocates of amnesty (or just letting more flood over here) always seem to word it so it sounds like any critics do have a problem. It's ILLEGAL immigration that's the issue–and with more illegal immigrants than we have for the populations of the vast majority of the state, that's way out of control.

    June 18, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  4. Sheldon H McGuire

    Supposedly we are a nation of laws. Immigrants should follow the existing law, not have waivers just because they are here in large numbers. Similarly, if you or I break the law we expect consequences. Restrictions should apply for eligibility for voting and licenses. Lawbreakers should not be able to vote or obtain any government controlled license. As for the jobs no one else will accept, find a way to offset the required job search with the amount of money received from government payments. If you work you get more money. If you don't accept available jobs, your income decreases. We will also find increasing overpopulation will force rationing on the supplies of water, food, space, and care. We do not have an endless supply of money nor resources.

    June 18, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  5. California attorney you really believe all 11 million illegals work? You think we have 11 million pickers??? I see the illegals all day every day. The few that work have jobs in construction, warehouses, Chipotle, Denny's, Costco, Home Depot. The list goes on and on so don't kid your self that they only have jobs Americans don't want!! Most I see live off their baby mommas welfare/section 8 housing and all other govt hand outs.

    June 18, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  6. Shangey G.

    "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."

    I distinctly remember years ago, Lou Dobbs on CNN, making daily reports of illegal immigration. I think that was back in 2003?
    So it's been more than 10+ years that essentially nothing has changed, but the amount of illegals and anchor babies increases, and the white babyboomers will start dying off. Perhaps in another 10 years, there will be very little resistance to "immigration reform"/amnesty?

    June 18, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  7. Gary Gaunnac

    In order to make this fair, double the Social Security Tax on the 11 million for the 13 years, in order to pay their fair share and bolster the country and the Social Security system which they have been taking advantage of as non-U.S. citizens for decades, hospitals, emergency rooms, and all social services, schools, etc. Make them learn English as their primary language and use it instead of Spanish in schools, at work, etc. Also, do not allow them to sponsor relatives from their native country to become U.S. citizens and have them revoke their citizenship in the country of origin, U.S. citizens only and not dual citizenship. They fully become U.S. citizens and their country of origin is no longer their country that they want to go back to. If their intent is to become a U.S. citizen and change their minds, they should not be here.

    June 18, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  8. RCM

    Who is going to pick fruits and vegetables, white Americans. Not likely.

    June 18, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  9. Illegal Citizen

    I believe in a path to legalization but it should cost $$$$. If you are illegal you have to pay a fee for every year you have been here illegaly. If you entered the country illegaly then you do not apply (it would be for those who overstayed their visa). The fine would be $1000-$2000 per year per person. In addition to that, the Goverment should charge $10K-20K for illegals to apply for Residency and should have 3-5 years of filling taxes.

    This would pass the cost of legalization to the illegal immigrants and not the Tax payers. For you idiots that say DEPORT THEM!!! The cost of doing that is much higher then having a path to legalization.

    June 18, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  10. Mattdaddy

    Carolyn! Democrats support the immigration bill because its the right thing to do. Most of the residents in question are Americans by any definition. They've never lived in any other country. In many cases only speak English! When did conservatism become heartlessness and lack of empathy and understanding? This is the "quality" that repels most Americans from voting for Republicans at the national stage. Good luck to you!

    June 18, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  11. RT Colorado

    The immigration issue is a huge (11 million and counting) and complex problem. Proponents of the currently proposed legislation point to the need to address the humanitarian aspect and ignore the past history of this problem. Opponents point to the adherence (or the failure of) existing laws and brush past the fact that Mexico's economy and social woes are the driving forces that propel illegal immigration into this country. Unfortunately, we've been lied to before on this very subject and that lie was given in a bi-partisan manner within the living memory of many of us. It is difficult to muster much faith in a Congress with a 17% approval rating and an Executive branch caught up in multiple scandals involving credibility, much less a Supreme Court whose rulings have been a mixture of surprise and disappointment. This could be a real "deal breaker" for not only a generational, but a conservative portion of the population. This has the potential of so alienating a large portion of the population as to drive a crippling wedge between groups and to lead to a significant rupture in the faith between the citizen and the government.

    June 18, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  12. mike

    for those of you who want this amnesty bill passed, what is in the bill that will stop future illegal immigration? we will be back in the same spot in less than a decade. force anyone in the country illegaly to register with a government office within 30 days. we will issue work visas for those people. anyone caught in the country after that (not on the registry) will be deported immediately (no questions asked). those that registered will be able to remain in the country on work visas, but will be put in the back of the line for citizenship. until then, they cannot vote or draw welfare, unemployment, etc. also, companies will have to use everify regardless of their size. if they do not, they will be fined heavily and if caught again, they will have their business license revoked for 5 years. finally, none of these items could be waiverable. that should fix the issue.

    June 18, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  13. Jason

    The correct math would be patricia has 11 kids and one on the way....How much overtime will your kid have to work so that patricias football team can have welfare

    June 18, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  14. Randy

    There are U.S. citizens who WOULD take jobs being filled by illegals. While laid off recently, I applied to a cannery during harvest season. I was turned down because I did not speak Spanish and would not be able to communicate with employees who did not speak English. I was qualified for the job except for this language issue. I know there are others who would take jobs rather than be unemployed but the jobs are taken by illegals and if we don't speak THEIR language, tough luck for us!

    June 18, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  15. censored

    There is no divide.You are either here living, and obeying our laws or you are not.,We are the only country in the world without borders except for born here citizens who have to have proof of who they are 24-7 going or coming.

    June 18, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  16. bnakka

    Younger people most of them have no clue. All they do is smoke pot and sing kun-ba-ya. They have not had enough experience in life to even realize how bad this bill is. What do the powers be think is going to happen if you legalize the so called 11 million? More people will still keep coming in hoping after a few years there will be another immigration bill to convert them to legalized paths.

    The politicians in the US are educated morons atleast in countries like India the politicians are uneducated to justify their behavior. What is the excuse of the politicians in the US. I guess senility.

    June 18, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  17. Don't Believe Polls

    Asking 1,014 people what they think about a particular subject can’t possibly be an accurate representation of what 300 million Americans actually believe. Polls such as this are nonsense and meant only to sway weak-minded politicians.

    June 18, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  18. California attorney

    Mattdaddy...don't know where you live but guessing not in any of the border states. The hundteds of thousands of illegals in Southern California have NOT lived in US for majority of their life and do NOT speak english. They travel back and forth to Mexico numerous times during the year. Our school districts have had to change holiday closure dates due to the illegals as they leave for Mexico for weeks at Christmas and Easter and do not return children to school on time. School districts were losing thousands of dollars so holiday vacation schedules were modified to accommodate the illegals travel.

    June 18, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  19. CZ

    Stop illegal immigration. Ease the process of legal immigration. That sounds like the right thing to do, but admitting everyone offers a quicker, safer path to re-election. Illegals have at least helped expose a flaw in our political system.

    June 18, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |

    The presumption herein is that most of the illegal aliens come from south of the U.S. Mexican border:
    1. Illegal aliens don't pay income taxes!
    2. Legalized aliens pay income taxes!
    So... Maybe it is a good idea to allow illegal aliens to become citizens so they will "pay their way"?
    Many illegal aliens have been in the U.S. so long that they consider themselves U.S. citizens. Many current illegal aliens are children of citizenized parents who assumed the process automically included their children. These children often reach the age of 20 or more, living, breathing, and loving being an American, when they discover they are not U.S. citizens!
    It seems reasonable that any currently illegal alien who loves the U.S. and wants to become a citizen ought to get a reprieve – pay income taxes, be allowed to get driver's licenses, buy health insurance etc.; as long as he/she stays with the INS citizenship program, and reach that goal before a limited time! These people would not be a financial burden to U.S. Citizens!
    On the other hand: Those illegal aliens who love Mexico, or wherever, and see the U.S. just as a way to milk a generous system, are techically & spiritually criminals – They should be rounded up, thrown into (unpaid) work camps for a significant period of time, then sent back to their country with the admonishment to stay there! An INS visit to one of those "immigration" rallys where the participants are herocially waving Mexican Flags might be a good place to start! Reinforcing the U.S. – Mexico borders is a good way to keep those who do not want to visit the U.S. legally out!
    One more thing: I am born citizen of the U.S. and have always assumed, that I, indeed, may need to prove that I am a U.S. citizen (typically required before one can get a driver's license) before I am allowed to vote in elections for U.S. Government Officials & issues – Why would you allow a person, who hasn't been schooled in the responsibilities and committment to the principles of being a U.S. Citizen, vote?

    June 18, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  21. John

    Could be the fact many of us remember in the 80's when immigration reformed was promised. Citizenship was given to millions of those already here and strong boarder security put in place afterwards. Problem is stronger boarder security was never put in place and now we are back once again with millions here illegally and promises once again being made. This time around give us the border security then let’s talk a pathway for those already here. Maybe when younger people get their share of false promises they will understand why older people have a different stance on this issue.

    June 18, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  22. Michael Yancy

    DO NOT BUILD THE FENCE!!!! The cost of illegal drugs and cheap labor will go thru the roof. Our emergency rooms will be empty causing a layoff of doctors and nurses. Schools will have to be closed for lack of attendance by illeagle childern which will cause local governments to reduce property taxes. With 11 to 25 million illeagles here, we will be able to move the Walmart sweatshops from asia and let them work in backroom sweatshops here.

    June 18, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  23. Larry L


    How about cutting off immigration until all American citizens are employed first?
    You'll be waiting a long time for Americans to fill the jobs in agriculture, meat processing, masonry, roofing, landscaping, and a myriad of other back-breaking, low-paying types of work. Just waiting on our Congress to become effectively employed could take decades.

    June 18, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  24. rob

    Why are these Washington clowns even talking about amnesty? We need workplace enforcement. Start leveling heavy fines and jail time to those who hire illegals and eventually the illegals will leave on their own once they see they can't get a job or welfare saving the taxpayer trillions. And the argument about we don't have people with the skills to fill those jobs, is bull hockey. Training could and should be provided and don't you think anyone who is running a business in America should be forced to hire legal citizens from America? I sure do!!

    June 18, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  25. ron

    the law is the law...but obama will deny the law to get voted into office ,,,he would not have been pres if he did not break our laws..i have no respect for people who are sworn into office to uphold the laws ,and then do the opposite

    June 18, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
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