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. Enough is Enough

    How can anybody be in favor of making the U.S. more like Mexico.

    June 18, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  2. Guygyl

    USA needs to tighten visa system–be it for IT or medicine...true. Coming here to grab our benefits.

    June 18, 2013 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  3. Anonymous

    I guess the question here is why when congress acts do they have to try to shove everything in one bill. Let's deal with border security first, then work on how we deal with all of the criminals that are currently breaking US laws. As an American I want the boarder locked down to help stop the flow of illegal immigrants (although this will not address people over staying their visas). But there are added benefits too. If the border security is tight, it also helps curb the flow of drugs from Mexico coming into the US and guns from the US going to Mexico, it's a win-win. Add to that, there are a bunch of vets coming home from overseas that need a job, stick them on the border. Current policy is bad for the US and other counties, we get a bunch of poor unskilled people that suck up social services but we also streamline any high skilled workers, so we willingly take the high skilled workers that could be helping to build their own countries, maybe good for the US but not the country they came from.

    June 18, 2013 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  4. str8t69

    Why do you call them undocumented immigrants whe they are illegal aliens? Don't coddle them. They are criminals.

    June 18, 2013 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  5. smuzer02

    why do you need an international poll of a domestic issue? of course younger people of other countries will favor this bill, but they aren't citizens

    June 18, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  6. TheTraveler

    "The measure would offer a 13-year path to eventual citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the country."

    If people weren't willing to wait and get naturalized before, what makes anyone think they will wait 13 years now?

    " ... that more than six in ten say border security rather than a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants should be the bigger priority."

    Absolutely. This should be the priority. Offering what amounts to an "amnesty" program isn't going to deter more illegals from coming to the US. In fact, I think it will encourage more. Our border is so porous now you could drive a herd of cattle through it.

    June 18, 2013 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  7. Chet

    Wish I could snatch the American flags of all those foreign terrorist.

    June 18, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  8. SS

    What about an easier process for those here legally to get Green cards and become citizens? Also, once this illegals get citizenship, we can put a majority of them on welfare, food stamps, etc and make the rest of us pay more taxes.

    June 18, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  9. TooTough

    Eight Gangsters are going to make a decision to bankrupt our country, even further. We can't acccomodate 11 million more on welfare, social security, disability, etc. A 25% tax on all politicians to fund this lunacy.

    June 18, 2013 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  10. SCBAMA

    Don't expect this to pass. Without border security and voter registeration reform not going to happen nor should it. Keep hope alive though.

    June 18, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  11. Porky Rottenham

    We should have stopped all immigration many years ago. That includes H1Bs. We have too many people all ready.

    June 18, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  12. us_1776

    The United States has 12,500 miles of coastline border.

    The United States has 4,100 miles of Canadian border.

    The United States has 2,000 miles of Mexican border.

    A total of 18,600 miles of border much of it wilderness or open sea access.

    It is IMPOSSIBLE to completely secure the borders of the United States.

    It would take more money than the entire GDP of the country to accomplish such a goal.

    Therefore it is only political theatre to try and link secure borders to anything to do with immigration reform.


    June 18, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  13. MJH

    According to Senator Graham, if the bill doesn't pass, Hispanics will continue to shun the GOP and their party will fail.
    According to Ann Coulter, if the bill passes, 11 million more Hispanics will somehow magically vote 100% for Democrats and their party will fail. Damned if they do, damned if they don't; AMERICA wins!

    June 18, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  14. DoNotWorry

    I don't believe "slightly over half" of Americans support another Amnesty. I can't find anyone who supports it that isn't an illegal themselves, and every poll I've taken online runs about 75% against. CNN must have used an illegal directory to make those calls in order to skew the numbers. I live in an area with a lot of illegals, and I don't get those numbers.

    June 18, 2013 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  15. Evergreen

    If border crossers can't get jobs or government benefits they wont cross the border. E-verify for employment and government services and stricker penalites for those who hire illegal workers.

    June 18, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  16. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    If they are really intent on securing the boarder, then there needs to be some significant investment in more people there to observer and capture those crossing illegally. There should also be a multi stage barrier and detection plan. That should include fences and towers to observe the boarder. The technological aspect should include drones spotting the crossers (armed with tracking darts if possible) as well towers that have multiple sensors (radar, thermal imaging, sesimic detectors for people walking and digging tunnels and audio recording) to track people moving into hard to secure areas. I don't mind there being water stations to keep people from dying, but the water has to have something in there to help keep tabs on the people.

    These senor towers could also aid those who are keeping track of wildlife out there.

    June 18, 2013 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  17. American

    Who checks if poll of “small majority of Americans” does not include “undocumented citizens"?

    Blogs on this issue show as majority rejects amnesty idea, including visa workers and green card holders.

    June 18, 2013 09:32 am at 9:32 am |

    A couple problems with this bill. First, it gives illegal immigrants here in the U.S. special treatment just because they entered the U.S. illegally. They get to stay while others who want to come here have to wait in their own countries. That is not fair to those who want to do the right thing. It creates a disincentive to follow the process. Second, it gives low skill jobs to foreigners but also gives high tech jobs to foreigners. Where does that leave average Americans? If there are jobs open in both those areas, America needs to fill them with Americans and foster the kind of environment that does that rather than rely on foreign labor. Finally, our country has over 300 million people here. I'm concerned about crowding and overpopulation. More people do not make a higher quality of life. Furthermore, more people strain resources, create pollution and impact the environment. I think it's time to think of equalization immigration where the number of immigrants allowed to come to the U.S. is based upon a defined population number such as 300 million. This way it is always one person in for one person out.

    June 18, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  19. Gloria

    Let's get this bill passed and move on!

    June 18, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  20. Guest

    It's just like obamacare-this bill is full of crap.

    June 18, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  21. AK

    I think creating a 'Combo' package bill is a bad bad idea..there are so many aspects in the immigration debate that they often do not blend well...How about focusing on legal immigration first ? Why does legal immigration in important STEM fields have to be tied to the path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented aliens ? Border security is far more important than a legal path for citizenship for undocumented aliens..people who are here illegaly can wait..lets just focus on securing our borders and a path to citizenship for legal immigrants who are contributing to the soceity in a positive way before we talk about others...

    June 18, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  22. Thaddeus Kozubal

    The devil is in the details. Often, polls ask questions that people couldn't answer about current law. Should immigrants wait 3 years or ten years or 13 years? What is the current law for all other immigrants entering legally? Why are there more bills in Congress on the same subject than there are Congressmen? When will the Press explain the differences between current law, and Bill 1, Bill 2, and Bill X? Are these bills unnecessarily oppressive for illegals? Does it make it a crime just to be here? Is the bill the same for Central Americans, South Americans, Pakistanies, Afghans, Russians, Africans? Ask me what the color of my underwear is today. Will you get the same answer tomorrow? Why is Congress always so convoluted? Why is justice so blind in their eyes?

    June 18, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  23. GrandOldPatsy

    Why do we have to bend the law for those who broke it by coming here illegally? It spits in the face of those who work day in and day out to become legal US citizens.

    June 18, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  24. The Realist

    As it stands now, the "new" immigration bill is Amnesty by another name.

    First things first:

    Close down the border.

    Step up the rate of deportations.

    Crack down on on human smugglers.

    Send employers to jail for hiring Any illegal alien.

    Be they from Latin America, Asia, or Europe, they must all go!


    June 18, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  25. TruthandConsequence

    Americans have a difficult time with the concept of our politicians seeking to reward liars and cheats for their lying and cheating. Politicians more readily grasp the concept.

    June 18, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
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