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. John

    Younger people favor it out of stupidity. They don't remember that Reagan let in 3 million in the 1980's and now we have 30 million. If we do this, in 30 years we'll have 300 million of them. This isn't about kindness to immigrants. In fact it's mean to them. It's about not wanting to pay them or Americans a living wage for the work they do.

    June 18, 2013 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  2. dixie

    How do we stop people from crossing the border when we are spending 100 million on a vacation for the 1st. Family? We can't even let people see the White House because there is no money for secuity.REALLY?

    June 18, 2013 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  3. Frank

    Next DWI / DUI any of you get, just walk into the court room holding a MADD Flag for the judge to see. That should get you a free pass like the Mexicans get holding up the American flag after breaking into our country and stealing peoples identities (identity fraud) and jobs, driving without insurance or drivers licenses, etc!

    June 18, 2013 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  4. Dennis

    Border Security and Immigration should be two separate Bills. The Border Security should be the first issue that should be tackled and accomplished. After a security package has been adopted on the border, a evaluation/ audit should be put in place to see if the border security package actual does what it supposed to do. On the other hand, no individual who enters the US illegally should be given US benefits nor a pathway to citizenship should be created. We can not award individuals who broke laws. If we do, then not only set a wrong example to our kids,... it's against everything that we believe in. Wrong is wrong and right is right.........

    June 18, 2013 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  5. Mark

    Oh my, in a county where the majority of it's citizens immigrated from somewhere. I wonder how many senators have considered that the majority of people who elected them actually immigrated historically from somewhere. Interesting. I foresee several elected officials unemployed.

    June 18, 2013 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  6. Frank

    while younger Americans tend to favor it.

    This is the what the liberal public school brainwashing has done to our kids. HOME SCHOOL YOUR KIDS.

    June 18, 2013 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  7. Frank

    Nest DUI you get just walk into the court room holding a MADD flag. That should get you off the hook and force the state to legalize drinking and driving. The American flag trick seems to work for these people

    June 18, 2013 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  8. Badly-Bent

    It amazes me that the CNN poll says 51% support the bill? I don't get anywhere near that high in my unofficial polls.

    June 18, 2013 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  9. James

    As a 2nd generation immigrant, I am disgusted by the unfairness of the immigration issue. Our government is without a doubt corrupt and unjust. There is no reason to give amnesty except to encourage illegal immigration. There is no reason to teach school in other languages, other than encouraging the use of those languages. HEY WORLD! Come on over on a student visa, vacation visa, or just visit Mexico and walk right in, COME to America! As long as you vote democrat and you don't live next to them you can do as you like. The ACLU will defend anything you do as long as you are almost completely wrong. The ironic thing here is rich people need illegal for cheap labor and exploit them because they are illegal. Plain and simple you need to be a legal citizen of this countryor be here legally to vote, to attend school, and to receive aid. The rest posting otherwise are loons or illegals.

    June 18, 2013 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  10. Minnie Mouse

    Why is it our countries top prority to provide cizitenship to undocument immigrants? If the borders are not secure then the problem is going to be ongoing and be more costly in the end. We will have thousands and thousands more people added to the list of undocumented. There are jobs and homes where they live. The actual top priority has to be the border in order to keep our country safe from guns, drugs, violence, terrorists, and criminals. We can't have people continually migrating into our country. We are not set up financially to provide for anyone and everyone that decides to just show up. These folks are on welfare, getting discounted college tuition rates, American jobs are requiring that you need to speak Spanish in order to land certain jobs when our language is English, millions is spent on printings of documents into both spanish and english ect..Ths is America, we have to take care of America first. What is the best interest of our country and people. There's not enough jobs, college is not affordable, there's to much violence, some people don't have homes ect...

    June 18, 2013 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  11. philip

    Millions of Americans are suffering from unemployment. Our politicians, whom we sent to look out for our interests, instead spend their days looking after the interests of those who are not even citizens. I have been unemployed a long time here in Florida. What has Rubio done to help me and the other million or so Floridians unemployed or under employed? He has done anothing.

    June 18, 2013 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  12. Michael

    Border Security? Is that to keep immigrants out or the population in? Build a fence as high as you want (at considerable expense, mind you) and people will go around it. Anyone remember the Maginot Line? I'd put the onus on employers ... hire undocumented workers and run the risk. Illegal immigrants wouldn't come to the US in droves if nobody would ire them without proper documentation. There has to be a middle ground on health care ... a hospital just can't turn people away, but maybe INS could "visit" the immigrants in the ER to start the documentation process ... including back taxes. Thirteen years may be a little long ... try seven. Just my $0.02 worth ...

    June 18, 2013 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  13. idb

    The big problem is that two completely different subject are being combined by news media and politicians. The problem with the invaders of our country has nothing to do with immigration. The people that have illegally crossed our borders and committed numerous crimes in their quest for money and benefits have no connection to the people that want to better their lives and wish to become part of society. The latter go trough an arduous and expensive process voluntarily because they believe in what America stands for. The former have no such intentions and should therefore not be rewarded. Quit the contrary, they should be treated as the criminals they are.

    June 18, 2013 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  14. Ray E. (Georgia)

    I have heard that about a million five become citizens every year by going thru the process that is in place now. The problem with allowing those in the country not citizens to become citizens will just have more coming and demanding to become citizens. They came un invited and they can leave, uninvited. If they want to become citizens they can apply from their own country like those doing it the right way now. Only allowing applicants to become citizens by applying from ther own country is the only way to settle the problem. It may b tough, but it was tough for all that came before.

    June 18, 2013 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  15. William House

    The Real Story of Sodom was the Rape of Immigrant Rights. The Real Sin of Sodom was arrogance, and not lifting the hand of the poor and needy. Bigots fail to see their Bigotry is the real abomination.

    June 18, 2013 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  16. Tenie

    Let the younger ones live a bit longer, pay huge taxes which will go to support illegals, then see how they feel.

    June 18, 2013 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  17. John

    Somehow our "Washington 500" have confused immigration with illegal immigration. I support immigration and I am totally against illegal immigration/amnesty.

    June 18, 2013 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  18. gizmowiz

    We need a China-like wall on the entire southern border 200 feet high and 100 feet deep. With foot patrols every 300 feet and seismic monitors to detect any underground digging.

    June 18, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  19. Sevinsins

    How can you have an immigration bill and not address the issue at the boarder? These are our best educated minds? Seems to me common sense has escaped these people "AGAIN!" I really wish you people would stop reelecting these scum bag nitwits!

    June 18, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  20. Jeff

    Both parties are not serving the national interest in their attempt to get more Hispanic votes. Why should we grant citizenship to anyone whose very first act on U.S. soil was illegal! We should tighten our border, allow some leeway for the kids of illegal immigrants, and start handing out more and harsher penalties for firms that hire illegals.

    Illegals who are found should be deported, not granted citizenship.

    June 18, 2013 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  21. Bert BigDongler

    When you say undocumented immigrants you mean illegal immigrants that broke the law, right? Just making sure I understand what the reporter is talking about. I mean I lost some documents the other day but I never invaded a sovereign nation.

    June 18, 2013 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  22. RealityBites

    Illegal alien foreign national criminals should NOT be rewarded for their criminal behavior. Just because so many people from a certain ethnicity/race/region (Hispanic Mexicans, Central Americans, & South Americans) broke a law doesn't excuse them from that law. If we allow foreign criminals to dictate how this country is run, there will be civil war.

    June 18, 2013 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  23. Joe

    CNN, your editing is horrible.

    "Only four in ten say THE approve of the job he's doing on illegal immigration, with 56% saying they disapprove of his performance on the issue." Even my spell check is yelling at me to fix that.

    But to the issue. Illegal Immigration = Illegal. Anyone acting like Illegal is the only option is a liar. If this goes through, i would at least hope that all the LEGAL immigrants awaiting citizenship gets it as well. If not, then this truly is not an Immigration issue. It is a "lets see if we can get millions more voters" issue.

    June 18, 2013 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  24. mindy

    These people are in limbo because they are not following the laws. Whether by choice or not. There should be a provision by which those here illegally who were brought here as underage children to obtain a waiver to stay in the country whie pursuing citizenship. No voting, no governmental assistance required if we allow them work ( or school ) visas while they make an effort to become citizens. Free rides, no. Opportunity; absolutely!

    June 18, 2013 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  25. bilbilbit


    I've been here for 15 years (legally) and still not a citizen. I pay taxes, I give back to the community, I am certainly not a drain on the economy. Where's my defined path?


    June 18, 2013 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
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