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. Bob

    One way or another, Republicans will kill immigration reform.

    June 18, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  2. Ralph H

    They should never have a path to become a legal citizen unless they came here legally. Anyone who broke our national security laws to get here need to be sent back to their own countries. They knew they broke the laws to get here and it's their fault that they had kids here. Which makes them illegal a crime after the fact those who broke our laws need to take responsablity for that action and take them with them on their way home. Our politicians did this and they need to do the right thing for the people of this coiuntry. Send them home and more jobs open up for us. Many construction jobs would open up which are now taken by illegals . Taking them for law breakers to non law breakers is a slap in the face of every person in tthis country.

    June 18, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  3. Brad

    How long did it take to build the Great Wall of China? Let's get on this! Great Wall of 'Merica

    June 18, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  4. two thumbs

    This might just need to be a youth vote decision. The 18 to 29 year old voting block continues to assume great financial responsibility for their generation. They already have burdened themselves with graciously paying the care costs associated with the baby boomers via Obamacare; adding to their ever-widening government safety net and its associated cost is a financial/lifestyle choice they continue to endorse. As a fast approaching senior citizen I am not only grateful, but also impressed that they are willing to sacrifice so much for us.

    June 18, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  5. maine liberal

    Our "welcome mat" has this

    "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

    June 18, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  6. Steve S

    We're a nation of immigrants....remember?

    June 18, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  7. Jopa

    Description of the gang of 8 secret immigration meetings:

    A small group of people met in secret, special interests. American people not involved. Nobody really representing the average working American. They weren’t in the room. But you had the La Raza there, the Chamber of Commerce there. You had the ag growers and the meat packers, and the unions and that kind of thing going on. The Immigration Lawyers Association was there. And as a result, the bill comes out not doing at all what its sponsors say at a fundamental level.”

    June 18, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  8. Larry L


    At least there is a proposal out there for them to work from. That is more progress on this issue than we have seen since Clinton was in office.
    Forget the Bush years?

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

    Business interests behind the current "Immigration Reform" bill have convinced many politicians that lower wages equals good economics. This is not just wrong. It is stupid. Even from the perspective of employers, lower wages are only good for you if you have exclusive access to the pool of cheap labor. Wage earners that don't work for you are your customers. Impoverishing your customer base is not good for business. It is not good economics and it is political suicide. Do Democrats really think they will win future elections with an economic policy designed to keep wages low?

    June 18, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  10. Ed

    Any nation that would give a "path to citizenship" to anyone that entered their nation illegally is a nation of fools that don't have respect for their own laws. There are 10's of million around the world that would love to immigrate to this nation LEGALLY – but preference will be given to 11 million who came here illegally against our laws. Fools led by fools is what the U.S. has become.

    June 18, 2013 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  11. david

    Its an act of war to invade another country. The 13 million criminals from south of our border have to go, we cant affod to pay their welfare, it has bankrupted us. If they wernt so criminal minded and corrupt it would be something to consider. Obey the law and deport them. We can heal again. They have no rights, they are criminal for even being in our home.

    June 18, 2013 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  12. RK

    There is nothing wrong with the legal way our great grandparents and grandparents came to this country..They arrived and applied legally for citizenship...They did sneak in under cover of darkness or in a closed truck....Expel the current illegals back to their home country...file charges against all american employers who aid in the influx of illegal people and make those who want to enter this country do so the legal way..via application...Also end the baby making loophole

    June 18, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  13. never

    Washington doesn't get it, we won't accept the illegals for any reason. Not now. Not ever. No 'reform' will pass. When it doesn't pass, its time to get back to work improving and expanding our deportation system, closing our southern border, and making laws that criminalize hiring any illegal. A major period of US economic growth is coming when the weight of 20-30 million illegals on our education system, healthcare, law enforcement, etc, etc, is finally lifted.

    June 18, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |

    Saying this is about the hispanic vote makes no sense as illegals can't vote (or aren't supposed to). I don't know why LEGAL immigrants are so behind this. If you're truly a citizen and came over here LEGALLY you should feel it's unfair to offer an easy path when the one you had to take was hard. If I waited a long time to come here LEGALLY I would resent those of my ethnicity that snuck in against the law, no one likes a line cutter.

    June 18, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  15. grantee

    I hope commentators could take the time to read the proposed immigration bill. No illegal immigrant can become a citizen before 13 years and they cannot get any benefits before they become a citizen. You have to learn English and you cannot be a criminal in order to qualify for the previledge.....please read the proposed bill before commenting!

    June 18, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  16. HeyHey

    I'm not just handing my country away... Plain and simple. You have no right to show up in a country and demand citizenship...

    June 18, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  17. Paratrooper_us

    efque – No I am not a Native American, but my ancestors came in to the United States legally, they have come in illegally, that is the difference. Millions of people are following the process and waiting to come in legally, why reward those that circumvented the process and came in illegally? Why – The Democrat Party wants the votes.

    June 18, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  18. Steveo

    @ya rights
    Why the Dems are pushing this bill that no one wants or needs other then the illegals and big corp that thrives off of their cheapend labor?
    Potential votes!

    June 18, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  19. Jim

    Passing immigration reform before securing the country's borders is like painting your ceiling while your roof leaks like a sieve. It's a waste of time and money, and it's just not smart. Sounds like our current federal government.

    June 18, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  20. Tired of the idiotic political moves

    It is completely crazy that we are even considering something of this nature. We are completely bypassing the rules for immigration set by our country due to the fact that we haven't been able to uphold them and continue to let this slip through the cracks. In a ploy to get more votes, the Democrats would love this bill to pass even though it would bring devastation to our financial situation. The illegal aliens we are talking about will take all the lower paying jobs they aren't already performing with improper documentation away from legal citizens of the US. They will take benefits that our taxpayers are paying for. I have always said that we have always continued the wars due to the fact that if we returned our soldiers home, our unemployment rate would skyrocket. How about ending the wars to bring our boys and girls home to protect our borders and help ship these people back to their legal country of citizenship? Come on people. Stop thinking Democrat vs. Republican here and make a decision based on what is best for the USA as a whole. Removing these people adds jobs to our economy that will be filled by our children.

    June 18, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  21. DCNY

    The illegal immigrant show how much they really love America. by the way they wave their America flags every time there is an immigration reform protest. Why is it when the US national soccer team played the Mexico national team in Los Angeles, the US team faced an extremely hostile crowd. The were booed, and cursed at any time they touched the ball. When the national anthem was played it was not shown any respect. True feelings were clearly revealed.

    June 18, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  22. Bill

    As someone who immigrated here LEGALLY and contributes to this society and country as a small business owner, immigration is the one issue that my opinions differ the most from the Democrats, who I usually support. Providing any sort of pathway to citizenship to people who knowingly and willfully broke U.S. immigration laws is a slap in the face to those of us who did not. I think a reasonable compromise is to give these people five-year visas they can renew for life providing they remain employed, pay taxes, can pass an English test, and remain without a criminal record.

    June 18, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  23. gt

    Were are a nation of immigrants except the Indians and they are immigrants. Every one came from Africa in the beginning they say. But the immigrants came by the way of Ellis Island, legally. They learned the language and worked not get on welfare. A lot came on vacation and never left others came over to drop a kid and want their entire blood line here.

    June 18, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  24. james

    We shouldn't be giving gifts (citizenship) to people who have broken our laws. Go back to your country of citizenship and get in line to do it the legal way.

    June 18, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  25. joe800

    As long as the 13 year process starts with the filing of a legal, application and not when they jump the border....if theyve been here 12 years illegally, then they start waiting the 13 yrs when they enter legally

    June 18, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
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