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. Kadura

    I think the reason for the differences between the old and young on this subject could be that the older generation remember the promises made last time in 1986.

    June 18, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  2. Cheetahe

    Why the existing immigration laws are not enforced? Is enforcing the law politically inconvenient? At the end; how many more people will enter the country after this amnesty is enacted and what is the economic and environmental impact to the country? How many of the people living here illegally have jobs and how many are on public welfare rolls right now?
    No information is made available for the public, except that this is the right thing to do for more low wage labor. Let us not forget that in 1986 when the last amnesty was granted, the politicians sold it to us that from then on they were going to reinforce the laws and we were not going to deal with violations of our borders.

    June 18, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  3. jgeek

    Yeah that is true that we are nation of immigrants but not illegal immigrants.

    June 18, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  4. Tank

    We are a nation of immigrants. Not a nation of Illegal immigrants. There should be no pathway to citizenship for those who came here illegally.

    June 18, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  5. Butch McSnutch

    Actually the vast majority of Americans, 75%, oppose illegal immigration. Not much of a divide.

    June 18, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  6. kenman

    ILLEGAL aliens should NEVER have a path to citizenship! They can be made legal residents, live here while active on work visas, etc. but they should NEVER be rewarded with our most precious gift after violating our laws to get here and every day they stayed!

    AND, even Marco Rubio told an Hispanic audience that they would get citizenship before the border is secured! This is nothing but a corrupt attempt by the corrupt establishment in both parties to buy votes, and I'm a conservative. We are being sold out and it will be OUR votes that have the least meaning going forward if we don't reclaim our country.

    June 18, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  7. robertperez78664

    the only reason the Democrats want these illegals here is for the votes. Why can't they get a Green Card like the rest. Why are they so spacial.They broke the LAW period!!

    June 18, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  8. Data Driven

    Makes sense. Young people tend to be less racist. And if it wasn't for the race angle, no one would really care about this issue except the immigrants themselves. There would be few complaints, I deem, if the illegals in question were buxom Swedish lasses. After all, America, who's gonna pick your strawberries and clean your filthy motel rooms? Not YOU. You're too good for that sort of work.

    June 18, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  9. Dave Cartier

    I agree that voting should not get too complicated but I have one questions...What law abiding, US citizen could possibly believe that allowing people from other countries to vote in our elections and determine our nation's future makes sense?

    June 18, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  10. David

    "Grantee." They can't get medical care, but they do. They can't get food stamps, but they do. They can't get welfare, but they do. They can't get and education, but they do. Now should I go on how our current immigration laws are not even being enforced. My god man, they don't even want to fix the problem, just grant amnesty. Read the proposed bill? I am hoping it is made with extra soft paper, because it is only good for my rear end.

    June 18, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  11. bs1

    Absolutely no path to citizenship for those who broke the law and came into the country illegally because they didn't like the immigration rules. Once here they continued to break the law by working illegally, driving illegally, using stolen identities, no paying taxes, etc. There are not fine upstanding citizen wannnabes, they are repeat offenders. Their children who are born here due to their parent's crimes already have stolen citizenship. At most provide a long and expensive path to legal resident status, but these repeat criminal offenders do not in any way deserve a path to citizenship as that would be a slap in the face to those immigrents who followed the law. It would also be a vote buying scheme for the left.

    June 18, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  12. James

    There's really two kinds of people in this country – Those who believe in the rule of law and those who don't. 13 year pathway to citizenship? Give me a break. There's already a much shorter pathway to citizenship for immigrants. All they have to do is go to the customs and immigration services website and start making plans. This whole thing is a battle over political capital to be won from the Hispanic block in future elections. It has nothing to do with what's best for the country.

    June 18, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  13. Angry

    I am a second generation American. My grandparents came from Eastern Europe legally. Before they wer granted entry they had to have a sponsor and a skill. They also had to learn English and not be a criminal. The current immigrants (those that illegally entered the country) have no skill to offer and many of them have criminal backgrounds – just look at the gangs – south American/mexican/ asian/ etc. We are turning out country into a third world nation and are politicians are helping. Let's try standing up for our freedoms and country – God Bless America

    June 18, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  14. Jeff

    "Border security" is a false issue. Over one third of illegal residents of the US did not cross the border illegally. Building fences doesn't stop people from flying here and just staying after their visa expires. Better to deal with the social and economic issues behind the problem and enforcing laws already on the books regarding employment. Of course, there should be a path to citizenship for the millions who have already become productive members of our society yet have been forced to live in the shadows.

    June 18, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  15. Dave Rogers

    Whatever the voters may or may not think..."both parties" (using the term sarcastically) do the periodic amnesty thing for illegal aliens. Following the money, it gives the next wave of illegals a place to stay (with countrymen and relatives) so that their employers don't have to house them.

    US immigration policy, like all US policy, is decided by lobby investment. They keep us clawing at each other and distracted, while they work together for a common end.. which is campaign fund raising.

    Political analysis can be a complex and multi-layered process with subtleties and nuance...until you start thinking in terms of following the money.

    Then it all gets clear.

    June 18, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  16. onpoint

    It is painfully obvious that many people don't know what actually this bill consists of. In the bill, border security would be amped up with increase drones, higher fences and increase border control. They want the border secure that 9/10 people who attempt to cross illegal would be unsuccessful and sent back to start the process legally. If this border security is not at 90%, the the illegal immigrants would not be able to apply for the status. For those currently already living and working here in America, the would be required to register for a Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI.) This status will be for the next 13 years. They would be required to show the have gainful employment (living above poverty level,) a criminal background check, required to pay back taxes, $2,000 in fees for registering over the course of 13 years. They would be required to learn english and American Civic classes. They would also have to prove that they have been here prior to Jan 1, 2012 to even be allowed to register for this status. But news channels are not giving these details out for some reason.

    June 18, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  17. Dean

    If you came home one night and your front door was kicked in and you walked into your house and there were people still there what would you do. No one would invite them to stay pay for their food, clothining, school, healthcare, dental and give them the right to vote on what you do. Nope you would call the police and have them arrested. If you think there aer 11 million then look at the population on the last census and you will see 32 million undoctumend people. Now you see why Obama is pressing this bill to pass. Illegals vote 80% Democrat...

    June 18, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  18. Jim

    WHY does the media continue to use headlines about IMMIGRATION when we ALL know the problem is ILLEGAL immigration?! It's their subtle way of putting all these sheep to their own agenda. My wife is a LEGAL alien and she gets even angrier than I do about how all the illegal aliens get so much done for them, so much is in Spanish now, this is changing to help them, that's changing to help them. It's ludicrous.

    June 18, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  19. VoteOften

    Illegal is illegal. If we permit all the illegals to become legal – they will bre unemployable since they will ahve to get a living wage. So to do the low waqe jobs the flood of illegals will continue and the "new" legals will go on public assistance.

    June 18, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  20. davecu

    ""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.""

    "The lamp beside the golden door" is to show the way, not to let the masses take over. There is a LEGAL way to do this. My parents did it. Why should the "MASSES" who break the law of the country they infest enjoy better prospects than those who respected the law?

    If you think border control is not relevant, ask the American Indian what THEY think.

    June 18, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  21. Steveo

    Changing focus for a moment

    "Biden to tout administration success on gun violence"

    Too early to tout anything. Over this past Father's Day weekend 8 were killed and 46 were wounded in gun violence in Chicago. Despite the fact Chicago has some of the toughest guns laws in the nation.

    June 18, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  22. jim

    STOP purposely confusing immigration with illegal immigration! Legal immgration good; illegal immigration bad. Simple.

    CNN, being an ally of the Democratic Party, wants to make anti-illegal-immigration as anti-immigration. This is a law and order issue, not an ethnic/xenophobia issue. But the Democrats want to make sure we are divided.

    June 18, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  23. rschier

    Illegal ? Send them back, no questions, ifs or buts. Why are we entertaining this nonsense ?

    June 18, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  24. the_dude

    I was young and stupid once then I started paying taxes and became old and stupid

    June 18, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  25. Bob

    Poll by CNN of 1000 people WHAT is this a joke. Is this the same CNN that said the last election would be close based on this poll. CNN look at the 90 of commenters who say otherwise. P.S. If there is NO E-Verify there will be a third Amnesty (a duck is a duck no matter).

    June 18, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
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