CNN Poll: Border crisis impacting public opinion on immigration
July 24th, 2014
05:01 PM ET
9 years ago

CNN Poll: Border crisis impacting public opinion on immigration

Washington (CNN) - The current crisis on the nation's southern border appears to be fueling a notable shift in American attitudes toward immigration policy with border security growing in importance, according to a new national survey.

A CNN/ORC International poll released on Thursday also indicates that a majority of those surveyed support making it easier for the United States to return migrant youth from Central America who have surged across the U.S. border with Mexico this year.

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But according to the survey, a bare majority views the children as refugees rather than illegal immigrants, and most say they'd be willing to have the federal government temporarily relocate some of the children to their communities or their city.

The influx of children trying to cross the southern border, many of them unaccompanied, has been a major media story over the past month. The White House and many Democrats have clashed with Republicans in Congress and governors over who is to blame and what should be done about it.

According to the poll, 51% now say the government's focus, when it comes to immigration policy, should be formulating a plan to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants. Forty-five percent say the top priority should be developing a plan that would allow undocumented immigrants who have jobs to become legal residents.

That's a change from February, when Americans said 54%-41% that legal status trumped border security.

"In the early part of this decade, a solid majority consistently said that the main focus of the U.S. government should be stopping the flow of illegal immigrants and deporting those already in the country. But in 2012, that flipped dramatically, with a solid majority believing that the government's main focus should be on a plan to allow illegal immigrants to become legal U.S. residents," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Now - and in a matter of months - the pendulum has swung back."

Big partisan divide

The survey indicates major partisan, geographical, generational, and gender divides.

Sixty-one percent of Democrats, but less than a quarter of Republicans, say that legal status is more important than border security. Independents are divided.

A majority of northeasterners say legal status is most important, while majorities in the Midwest and South say border security is the top priority. People in the West are divided. A majority of men and those over 50 say beefing up the border is most pressing, while most of those under 50 say legal status comes first. Women are divided.

The attention the current crisis is receiving is also fueling a spike in those who say the issue's extremely important. Thirty-nine percent now say it's extremely important for President Barack Obama and Congress to deal with illegal immigration, up 10 points from last year.

"That means that immigration is the only issue tested that has grown significantly more important to the public in the past year," Holland adds. "Nonetheless, immigration remains less important to the American public than the economy, education, health care and the budget deficit."

How to fix the problem

Fifty-four percent of those questioned say they support spending several billion dollars to increase the number of border officials who can determine whether the immigrant children should be deported, or allowed to stay.

Obama proposed a $3.7 billion emergency spending bill, which was instantly opposed by conservatives who argued the plan was too expensive.

Obama weighs sending national guard to border

Senate Democrats unveiled a $2.7 billion version that lacks key changes to border policies that Republicans have demanded as a condition for approving new funds. Wednesday, House Republican countered with a $1.5 billion emergency spending bill.

Under current U.S. law, unaccompanied children from Central America who illegally come to the United States may remain for months or years until they receive an immigration hearing on their status.

The poll indicates that more than six in 10 favor a bill that would make it easier for federal authorities to deport all children who enter the country illegally.

There's a partisan divide on the question, with more than eight in 10 Republicans and nearly two-thirds of independents, but only a minority of Democrats, supporting the idea.

Jeb Bush weighs in on border crisis

Refugees or illegal immigrants?

Americans are divided on how they view the undocumented children. Fifty-one percent describe most as refugees fleeing violence and poverty, with 45% saying most of them are illegal immigrants whose parents are trying to exploit a loophole in the U.S. immigration system.

By a 57%-41% margin, people say they'd be willing to have some of the children relocated to a security facility in the city or town where they live until the cases are resolved.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International from July 18-20, with 1,012 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

soundoff (211 Responses)
  1. russman2014

    They need to make it easier/cheaper for those entering the country legally. Right now my beautiful wife of 5 years (who is from Guatemala, and entered the country legally) have paid close to $1500 just for the green card, and we are paying another $700 to move forward and get her citizenship. That exorbitant amount of money is on top of ridiculous wait times (a year and a half for an approval on her last green card) where these people who are trying to do it the right way are in "gray areas" on whether they are legal or not.

    With all the stress, money, and crazy amounts of time we have had to wait just to get to where we are at (and we are not even done with the process), I really can't blame some people for trying to take the easy route and come illegally. The dollar amount alone is 2-3 years worth of work for some areas in the Central American countries. For my wife and I, it has required moving in with family a couple of times for a couple of months to put the money we would be putting towards rent, to her path to citizenship.

    If we make the path to citizenship easier and cheaper, instead of the slippery steep slope that it is currently we will see a significant drop in the illegal immigration crisis that we are dealing with today.

    July 24, 2014 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  2. Willy100

    WHY the 45% for legalizing people who are ILLEGAL ? ? ? MAYBE this problem is BIGGER Than we all know ! ! SHUT THE BORDER AND SEND BACK THE ILLEGALS WHO GET PAST THE SORRY BORDER PATROL ... This would NEVER happen in the UK ...

    July 24, 2014 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  3. Yimman

    "A majority of northeasterners say legal status is most important, while majorities in the Midwest and South say border security is the top priority." - This says nothing other than the shear ignorance of people not living in border states. I lived in southern California for ten years and, now, in Arizona for two years. Amnesty is only an option if we want to degrade the quality of life and educational standards of America. Simple, Straightforward and Truthful

    July 24, 2014 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  4. R Long

    Finally common sense is kicking in for SOME liberals. Not many, but enough to get the right thing done. When a liberal dies, my heart feels warm.

    July 24, 2014 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  5. suzie669

    If they survived and made their way through dangerous roads, let them in and take care of them. They have been through so much hard time.


    July 24, 2014 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  6. marko

    Perfect example of why politicians lie and exaggerate and play political football with the issues. Most people are lemmings and will fall for the lies and exaggerations rather than think about the issues and come up with their own opinions. Of course, when the media present only a thin slice of perspective and that's what people limit themselves to, well, guess what. Most people apparently fall for the BS. Is it a coincidence that most of the immigrants are coming from the countries where the US supported dictatorships (including the murderous thug General Rios Mont, buddy of Ronald Reagan, among others) for decades and waged war, blowing up the infrastructure and killing tens of thousands of peasants, social worker, intelligentsia, social activists, teachers, priest and nuns, etc. Yes, must be a coincidence.

    July 24, 2014 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  7. billbfit

    Obuma and his leftist cronies won't stop until they destroys America. Thank God for White House term limits.

    July 24, 2014 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  8. Mark

    People are catching on to Obama's votes for amnesty campaign.

    Obama created this latest mess

    July 24, 2014 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  9. Evelyn

    Both parties are at fault for the mess we have today and as long as both parties are beholden to corporate America and it's desire for unlimited cheap labor ,I doubt little will change .
    Had they done what they should have in 1986 and enforced the laws that were to have not allowed illegals to work in America, we would not have this problem.They could pass an E-Verify bill for all employers and make penalties that are more than the cost of doing business even jail time if employers don't conform .
    Increase our border security,do workplace raids .crackdown on those who have overstayed Visa's.and no more talk of Amnesty.

    July 24, 2014 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  10. JC

    If you start returning illegals, young and adult, back to their country the message will be clear and the one that think to come will change their mind. Otherwise you to see more crossing the border and others will start to come from Iraq, Syria, Gaza, etc.

    July 24, 2014 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  11. tom

    More than 45 MILLION IMMIGRANTS LIVE IN THE U.S. (That's both illegal and legal immigrants), according to UN figures, more than FOUR TIMES as many living in any other nation in the world. Unless you like more traffic, congestion, etc., it's time to slow down ALL immigration. There is nothing sacred about it.


    Immigration is equivalent to 90% of the population increase in California and 70% in the nation during the 1990s. This number reflects the immigrants who arrived in the decade plus their offspring.

    July 24, 2014 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  12. Kevin

    You mean, if someone knocks on my door and wants to come in side, watch TV, have dinner, I have to let them in and take care of them until they can be pawned off on my neighbors.. but everyone in my neighborhood has to pay for it?

    July 24, 2014 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  13. Marsha Brown

    You would not believe the money it is costing in paying 6 figure Immigation & Customs officers, along with 6 figure CBP officers, to process these people, they are making overtime being detailed to the border in HUGE sums (they already make a 6 fig salary just for mostly 'riding a cubicle'...I have a friend who got 62 hours of OT in a 2 week pay period......this $$$ is really adding up, and "who's paying for it"??????? Us Taxpayers of course! It is GROSS MISMANGEMENT of our country.

    July 24, 2014 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  14. AnotherBitterCynic357

    Of course the opposition is only motivated by bigotry. Because disease unchecked can't possibly be a threat and there's no way a terrorist or gang can smuggle weapons over an open border.
    (end sarcasm here)

    there is no right answer to this issue. However, we should examine each individual before deciding what to do with them. While we should be compassionate toward the children, they are breaking the law and are violating our sovereignty.

    And they are cheating the system; My grandparents waited for 10 years before being accepted as citizens. They had very little, as most of their possessions were either confiscated by the Nazis or destroyed. Instead of jumping the line, however, they wanted to become legitimate citizens, so they went through proper channels to do so.

    If we give these illegal aliens the right to vote, then what is the point of being a citizen? Non-citizens don't pay taxes and get government benefits, so why be a citizen at all?

    July 24, 2014 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  15. Marsha Brown

    THEY ARE ILLEGAL and need to be returned to their home countries. THE END.

    July 24, 2014 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  16. wilypagan

    Looks like the Socialist in Chief's plan is backfiring on him.

    July 24, 2014 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  17. bmike

    They have to also clamp down on some of the companies that actually hire illegals, they can't get work here they'd think again about coming here.

    July 24, 2014 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  18. dave

    Immigration is solely an economic issue. It's simply a question of how many new workers do we need to import. Given the condition of the current economy it is doubtful that anyone, in their right mind, would be pressuring the government to import more workers, especially illiterate workers, or even children. Given technology advances, and bad trade deals it is highly doublful that we will ever need to import more workers. Our immigration policy should be much like Japan's, they have no inflow of new workers, for good sensible reasons, their economy is in shambles, and they have many without jobs, a situation almost as bad as in the US, where we have 15 million without job. We are nothing like we were 50 to 100 years ago, when we needed many workers, had to import them, didn't matter if they were illiterate. Today we have an economy when even our best trained workers can't find work, some with huge education debt. We have more people working part time now than at any time in our history, many wishing for full time, and need desperately to work full time. The only thing that can happen with bringing in more workers is to make things much worse for American legal workers, including the Hispanic communities. At least now, since the Hispanics want more workers brought in, they should never again complain about low wages, high unemployment, or the loss of the American dream, or falling out of the middle class. Hell, they had it coming.

    July 24, 2014 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  19. The Democratic Solution

    Sixty-one percent of Democrats say that legal status is more important than border security. They want more voters. Duh!

    July 24, 2014 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    Seems like all CNN's hard work peddling propaganda is paying off....

    July 24, 2014 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  21. Travis

    I live in Houston TX and now I am supposed to sleep soundly at night knowing that MS-13 gang members are flooding my state while CNN refers to them as "children" and "refugees"? Thanks Liberals.

    July 24, 2014 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  22. amarjeet

    It is better to have Border Judges in the bordering states exclusively for border violations. Immigration system and Border Security must be taken up simultaneously as other ways are having political motives of elections. These border judges must decide based on human and international laws. Both issues must be kept separate and decided on its priority.

    July 24, 2014 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  23. middle america man

    In response to 'just asking', the whole concept of illegals costing us billions is wrong. Unbiased economists will tell you you're flat wrong. In any case, over half of the labor on our farms is done by undocumented workers. Unless you intend to start picking strawberries in your spare time, rethink things a little.

    July 24, 2014 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  24. Kristine

    Remember when Obama MOCKED republicans for wanting a secure border? Saying they wanted "moats with alligators in them"?

    Such a funny man, that Obama...everyone knows the border is secure. Heck...just ask dingy Harry Reid. Who cares how the 60,000+ kiddos slipped in. Our border is secure. Obama wouldn't lie, would he?

    July 24, 2014 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  25. amanda

    immigration is different than invasion. Please stop confusing the terms.

    July 24, 2014 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
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