Americans seem to be increasingly divided on what should be done about the immigration crisis in the United States, but one sentiment is echoing across party lines: Something has to change.
While the solutions offered are as nuanced and varied as the people who are offering them, there are a striking number of similarities across demographics and political affiliations.
Everyday conversations about immigration politics and the current state of affairs leave a bitter taste in many people’s mouths. As a country built through the utilization of immigrants, from the first settlers to our own neighbors, we need to ensure that we keep this source of economic growth available. Where do we go from here?
We worked with pollster Frank Lutz to get an idea of the current state of the American immigration debate, straight from the minds of 1,000 Americans, which included Democrat, Republican, and swing voters.
Of those polled, 48% were male and 52% were female. In regards to age, 17% were 18-29, 32% were 30-49, 28% were 50-64, and 23% were 65 and older. One-hundred percent are currently registered to vote in the United States.
Voter Apathy and Government Contact
Voter apathy is decreasing across the board, but active contact of government officials remains low. Half noted that they have voted in every state and national election that has been held since they registered to vote, with Republicans voting more (53%) by a narrow margin compared to Democrats (52%) and swing voters (41%). The majority (59%), though, stated that they have never contacted an elected official or attended a political rally of any kind. Democrats held the highest average, at 3.93%.
Opinions on Immigration
Immigration is a pervasive topic, with a wide swath of American voters feeling familiar with the debate over current policy and feeling unsatisfied with it. Sixty-five percent of all polled said that they were either extremely familiar or very familiar with the topic of immigration, while only 7% said they were not familiar. Republicans claimed the highest levels of familiarity, with 37% stating they “Extremely familiar,” compared to Democrats’ 30% and swing voters’ 18%.
The level of satisfaction with America’s current immigration policy is on a downward trend: Only 6% of poll participants said that they were “Totally satisfied,” while 23% were “Totally dissatisfied.” Republicans (32%) are the most dissatisfied, with Democrats coming in second at 21% and swing voters at 12%. Overall, 25% said they were either totally, mostly, or somewhat satisfied and 66% said they were somewhat, mostly, or totally dissatisfied. The remaining 9% stated that they have no opinion.
Potential Solutions to the Immigration Crisis
The question of what should be done with the 11 million people in the US without legal status is divisive. Eleven percent of participants stated they don’t believe in borders and that all should be welcome. This represented the opinion of 19% of Democrats, 12% of swing voters, and a mere 2% of Republicans.
At the other extreme, 19% stated that all illegal immigrants should be removed, with 40% of Republicans, 5% of Democrats, and 13% of swing voters deeming this to be the solution to illegal immigration.
More moderate views prevailed on both sides, with the wide majority falling somewhere between these two extremes. Thirty-three percent believe that they must be willing to pay a fine, hold a job, and pay taxes for ten years, eventually earning their way to legal residency. Sixteen percent believe they should be able to stay as long as they are law abiding and they have a US citizen spouse or children. Twenty percent feel that they should be able to stay for now if they are already working and do not receive financial aid, but that they must reconfirm their status every year.
Looking Toward Leaders
America is looking towards Democrats in Congress and Donald Trump for the best solution to the immigration challenge in the United States. With 47% of Americans believing we need more immigration (54% of Democrats, 25% of Republicans) and 33% believing we need less (25% of Democrats, 45% of Republicans), voters are looking towards the nation’s leaders and elected officials for solutions. Thirty-seven percent of those polled believe that the Democrats in Congress offer the best solution, while 31% believe POTUS Donald Trump has America’s best interests in mind with his immigration ideas.
What is the Goal of Immigration?
Voters are torn on what the ultimate goal of immigration policy should be. The highest ranking goal is approving homeland security, with 22%, with most Republicans (40%) falling in this category. At 13%, immigration policy that respects and values families came second. Dems were split between this goal and creating greater cultural diversity, both pulling 19% of Democratic votes. Less popular goals included a greater focus on STEM (16%), greater American competitiveness (4%), and more innovation and ingenuity in business and the economy (6%).
Priorities for both the most important aspects of the immigration plan and which groups of immigrants should benefit the most leaned towards protecting current American citizens. The most frequently voted aspect of immigration reform was that it provides the safety we want, the security we need, and the protection we deserve (33%). The least popular option, respects and protects taxpayers, pulled only 11% of votes (10% of Democrats, 16% of swing voters, and 8% of Republicans).
Thirty-one percent believe that people with a spouse, parent, child or sibling who is already a U.S. citizen should receive priority status, split between 35% Democrat, 32% swing voters, and 25% Republican. The majority of Republicans (29% favor those with high levels of education and job skills. The least popular option, with only 6% of votes, was admittance based on those who would add more diversity to the immigrant population because they come from areas of the world with low rates of immigration to the United States.
Where is the Agreement?
When it comes to why we’re seeking immigration reform, the answer is clear. An overwhelming 70% of those polled stated that they want immigration changes to establish a permanent employment program for undocumented workers and those who seek to come to America legally to work. This was the preferred answer for 87% of Democrats, 73% of swing voters, and 46% of Republicans.
The less popular option overall would seek to punish those who came here illegally, pulling in 30% of votes and consisting of 13% of Democrats, 27% of swing voters, and 54% of Republicans.
As the debate continues, a solution that satisfies all parties must be found. During an otherwise divisive time in our nation, voters agree that our immigration policy is lacking, and additionally seem to agree as to why this is the case. To start repairing our broken system, stay in contact with your legislators, actively participate in your right to vote, and subscribe to the IMMIG-Rant, our monthly newsletter dedicated to all things immigration.
Next week, we’ll continue to disseminate the data with special attention paid to specific, proposed policy.