Immigration Reform Update: Registered Voters Split on Congressional Candidates Supporting 'Path to Citizenship'
A political candidate in support of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants may encounter difficulty attracting registered Republican voters, based on polling data.
In a CBS News and New York Times survey, registered Republican voters overwhelmingly will not support a congressional candidate favoring a path to citizenship. Fifty-eight percent of registered Republicans are less likely to support such a candidate, while only 18 percent would be "more likely" to vote for the candidate.
Among registered Democratic voters, 41 percent are more likely to vote for a congressional candidate supporting a path to citizenship. While 32 percent of Democratic voters said a path to citizenship stance would make no difference on how they'll vote, 20 percent said they are less likely to support the congressional candidate.
Overall, including data from registered independents, 39 percent of voters are less likely to support a "path to citizenship" candidate, while 30 percent are in favor. Path to citizenship made no difference for 26 percent of registered voters polled.
Ratings of President Barack Obama's handling of immigration have worsened compared to August's polling data. With 60 percent, survey respondents disapproved of Obama's immigration management, a 3 percent increase from August. Meanwhile, 30 percent showed approval of his handling, a decrease of 1 percentage point from last month.
Among the survey respondents, immigration is the fourth most-important issue ahead of November's midterm election. The economy ranked first with 38 percent, ahead of terrorism (17 percent) and health care (16 percent). Immigration's 10 percent was ahead of concerns about the federal budget deficit (8 percent) and international conflicts (6 percent).
Registered voters believed the Republican Party will do a better job handling terrorism, foreign policy and the economy than Democratic lawmakers. The Democrats fared better on health care, but both political parties were even, with 42 percent, regarding immigration management.
"The impact of a candidate's support for the health care law or a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants is largely driven by partisanship," noted the report, but it acknowledged that most Americans support granting legal status to undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S.
When asked if undocumented immigrants should stay in the U.S. and apply for citizenship, 50 percent were in favor. Among political parties, 65 percent of Democrats and 46 percent of Independents agreed, but 37 percent of Republicans opposed the concept.
Regarding undocumented immigrants staying in the U.S. but not applying for citizenship, the numbers sharply declined. An overall 13 percent support undocumented immigrants staying in the U.S. but not applying for citizenship, while 15 percent of independents, 12 percent of Republicans and 10 percent of Democrats also agreed with the statement.
More Republicans agreed that undocumented immigrants should be "required" to leave the U.S., 46 percent, than Democrats, at 18 percent.
A majority of Democrats also support Obama's option to use executive action for immigration reform with 66 percent, although 27 percent within the same political party are opposed. Republicans heavily oppose immigration executive action with 59 percent, but 36 percent are in favor. Independents were nearly split with 49 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed.
The CBS News and New York Times survey involved 1,009 adults nationwide participating between Sept. 12 and Sept. 15.
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