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. An illegal alien

    The fact that I'd love to become a permanent resident alien, and perhaps some day become an American citizen, doesn't let me ignore that there're many issues to be addressed prior to approving the immigration bill; It has to do with the border, living in Phoenix, AZ, I hear frequently of drop houses being raided, finding large groups of fellow aliens; I also hear of drug smugglers being arrested; however, we do not hear of the ones who made past the surveillance of the border patrol and the local authorities; so to me, definitely, the border has to be secured, we don't want to be part of a never ending story on immigration... on the other hand, I think Mexico should play a big role; the Mexican government should reimburse to the US for damages made to the border fence itself and to environmental damaged created by illegal crossers; the Mexican goverment has to sign a compromise of protecting the border, not allowing their nationals to climb on it or break it; the Mexican goverment has to create a better environment for investors to come over to that country and create jobs so the people don't want to migrate to the North; if the Mexican government is not capable enough of fighting the drug cartels, then they should allow the US Army to come over and help them with logistics and well trained soldiers to take control of the country... Since the majority of the one who are going to get the benefit of an immigration reform are from Mexico; them Mexico has to put his money on the table.

    June 18, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  2. CJ

    Any amnesty program needs to include a solution to stopping illegal immigration into the country. This and every other plan that has been proposed do nothing to stop more illegals from flooding in and eventually starting a new round of amnesty talks.

    I say this with 20/20 hind sight. I was a supporter of the '86 amnesty and I can't help but sit here and say 'Things are worse now than in 86, we have even more illegals and an even more stressed how can amnesty help the nation?'

    June 18, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  3. Hillcrester

    "Younger Anericans" will become an increasing part of the electorate as years go by. This augurs well for immigration, abortion, GLBT equality, and other progressive issues. If Congress and the Courts don't liberalize our laws, voters will soon take care of it.

    June 18, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  4. notfishing

    The only divide is between those who benefit from Illegal Immigration and Amnesty verses those who do not.

    One side contains only US Citizens – the other does not.

    June 18, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  5. Linsey Walker

    The polls makes sense. Young people have no idea of the eventual consequences of almost any law. They only see the surface and don't go any deeper. And as for liberals, of course they want a path to citizenship for the illegals. Undocumented democrats are the salvation of their party. But the consequences of allowing citizenship to a group of people, no matter the nationality, who have spent most of their lives -not participating financially- in the US will be devastating for SS and Medicare when they get a little older and start collecting and taking out money which they did not put into the system. Talk about SS going bankrupt- this is the way to do it.

    June 18, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  6. julnor

    When people come to this country illegally they violate the sanctity of our borders and disrespect the sovereignty of our nation. So riddle me this, why should someone who violates our borders and disrespects our sovereignty be REWARDED with the honor, privilege and benefits of US citizenship? We can talk about a pathway to legalization, but to come here illegally and tell me you somehow deserve citizenship is pure chutzpah.

    June 18, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  7. john

    Border security? My wife has a green card and is going after citizenship. But she could have just bought an airline ticket as a tourist and not gone home. Sure, she would've been living "underground" here but a 20 foot fence wouldn't have stopped her. And flying in is probably cheaper and certainly safer and more comfortable than using a "coyote", no?

    June 18, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  8. Correctlycenter

    When America has different laws for different ethnicities, we as a nation are in trouble...

    June 18, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  9. John

    Republicans see immigrants as a voting threat. Just like everything else, they will put what is best for their party and their power above and beyond any concern about what is best for the nation. They will do what they can to prevent this, even if they think it is a good idea. If you are not rich, white,christian, male, you do not really matter in the long run.

    June 18, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  10. Tim

    Arizona spends $400 million a year on illegal's healthcare that's uncompensated. Why do I have to pay for that with increased insurance premiums (hospitals pass on the costs to us)?? How is that MY fault? People don't realize how much money illegals cost you. In Arizona alone, illegals cost every legal Arizona citizen $700 a year. I really wish I could spend that money on my bills instead of someone that's not supposed to be here.

    June 18, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  11. B

    Poll after poll we have seen numbers in support of reform at 70 % to 80%, yet every forum following the article is like 95% against. now we have this poll showing and even divide with the forums showing 95% to 99% against. Are the polls being manipulated? most definitely.

    June 18, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  12. Rob

    That's the problem with the young. They are repeating history and making things worse because they have no life experience. In a few years they will be regretting all the free give aways the scream for while they haven't earned anything yet.

    June 18, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  13. jeff

    deport ALL ILLEGALS NOW..

    June 18, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  14. taxedmore

    Too bad none of these polls don't ask the real question – "Do you support illegal immigration?"

    June 18, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  15. Matt

    This bill is actually quite the compromise. They are making it easier to become a citizen (lowering the need of coming illegally), making borders more secure (increasing jobs while preventing illegal immigrants), and are changing to a more merit based point system. If you are an intelligent, hard working, young person it is going to be very easy to become a citizen. The bill also puts a big red mark on anybody who has ever been involved in violent or gang related crimes (they added 3 DWIs to the list of crimes to be red flagged as well). Personally, I think it is a giant step in the right direction.

    The only downside I see to the merit based system they are proposing is that it no longer factors familial ties into the equation. And while I don't think somebody should have an easier path just because Uncle Frank and Aunt Marcy live here, it will be quite saddening to see families split up.

    June 18, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  16. As-if

    It makes sense that young people support "liberal" agendas. They have no idea of reality and how much things cost. Adding 10's of millions of immigrants will clog the hospitals, schools, infrastructure, Social Security, Medicare and put another nail in the coffin of our fiscal demise. I really dont think anyone should vote unless they pay income tax.

    June 18, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  17. ron

    It's a shame the locals didn't take a firm stand in 1620. Too many illegal aliens flooded this country shortly there after.

    June 18, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  18. snowdogg

    Tighter border security has the potential to stop a terrorist walking a dirty "suitcase" bomb into this country... not just illegal farm workers, etc.

    June 18, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  19. dnokc

    If you do not control your borders and do not control your country. If we will not do so...lets toss in the towel and call ourselves CanAMex.

    June 18, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  20. xplain_plz

    I wonder how many of the anti-immigration crowd have ancestors that came to the U.S. w/o papers – i.e., were an illegal immigrant. I also don't recall anything about early European settlers getting immigration papers from the various Native American nations that existed at that time. Bunch of hypocrites.

    June 18, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  21. Ed Walters

    I'm an in betweener, age wise, 49. I'm a first generation American. My dad came through Ellis Island in 1953. He's dead now, but he naturalized as fast as they let him. Learned English, worked his whole life here, paid over a million dollars in taxes in his lifetime. He also served for eight years in the USAF during Vietnam.

    I can say without a moment's hesitation that he would've been FOR a pathway to citizenship. I'm for it too. People come here to America for the same reasons they always have - it's the land of freedom and opportunity.

    For those against immigrants, legal, not legal, documented, not, already here, or on the way.....I say, you o back where it is YOU came from. Because I highly doubt you are native to this country, and you have forgotten why your ancestors came here.

    June 18, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  22. igor1963

    I'm immigrant. I come to this country legally, follow the process and after 11 years of been here I become citizen. I worked every single day of those years and I play taxes every year. I respect people who come here in pursuit of happiness and work hard against odds. But if you break the law there will be consequences. Why don't we give them permanent resident status but no path to citizenship?

    June 18, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  23. Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains

    We already tried to secure the borders the last ten years, and spent billions of dollars of taxpayer’s money to companies like Boeing, L3, etc. to try to tighten our borders – we failed. Demand e-verify and fix the problem.

    Why should you as a U.S. citizen be concerned?

    1. Loss of state tax revenues and federal tax revenues. Illegals get their salaries in cash. Result is we can’t maintain or build our infrastructure for the future. This means our schools, our roads, our bridges, our airports, our sea shipping port, our hospitals, etc. are falling apart.
    2. Cost of health care for the illegals using hospital ERs. Result is taxpayers are paying for the health care, and not through employer/worker paid insurance.
    3. Loss of circulating money in the economy due to earned wages being shipped out of the country. This results in loss of jobs.
    4. Education of the illegals in our schools. Completely funded by the taxpayers.

    Let us stand together and demand e-verify and get our 20 million citizens back to work, increase our tax revenues and rebuild our infrastructure. Let us bring the country back to prosperity by doing what is right.

    June 18, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  24. yippeeskip

    Secure the border, then come talk to me...

    June 18, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  25. Dusty2701

    If the Mexican and Canadian governments do not do a better job of border security then this issue will never be resolved. Hundred of illegals from China and Korea cross over the Canadian border into the US every day. They travel to Canada as tourists and then slip into the US from remote areas. Border security is a bigger problem than the US government wants to admit to. Solve that problem first, then talk about immigration reform, or amnesty for millions of illegals, which is what it really is.

    June 18, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
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