Poll shows support for Obama’s action on immigration

A new poll by Hart Research Associates shows broad support for the executive actions on immigration announced last week by President Obama.

The firm conducted a national survey on the topic of President Obama’s executive action on immigration.  The survey was conducted among 800 likely 2016 voters from Nov. 19 to 20, 2014, and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.  The following memo reviews the survey’s key findings:

“Voters respond favorably by an overwhelming 39-point margin to executive action by President Obama that would focus immigration enforcement efforts on threats to national security and public safety while allowing some illegal immigrants to stay and work in the United States (67 percent favorable, 28 percent unfavorable).  Support is broad, incorporating a majority of voters in every region of the country, among both men and women, and in states won by both Obama (67 percent favorable) and Mitt Romney (65 percent favorable).  Younger voters under age 35 express particularly strong support (72 percent), but more than 60 percent feel favorable in every age cohort. 

“Executive action receives support from 91 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of political independents.  While a narrow 51 percent majority of Republicans oppose executive action (41 percent favor), this is driven mainly by a 34-point margin of opposition among tea party Republicans (30 percent favor, 64 percent oppose).  Among non-tea party Republicans opinion is more divided, with 47 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed.

Description of executive action: The action would direct immigration enforcement officials to focus on threats to national security and public safety, and not on deporting otherwise law-abiding immigrants.  Immigrants who are parents of children who are legal U.S. residents could qualify to stay and work temporarily in the United States, without being deported, if they have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, pay taxes, and pass a criminal background check.

Many individual elements of the executive action are very popular with voters, such as: allowing undocumented immigrants who are parents of children or young adults living legally in the U.S. to stay here without being deported  (66 percent favorable, 28 percent not); expand the DACA program that provides temporary legal status and work permits to undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children (63 percent favorable, 27 percent unfavorable); provide temporary work permits to qualifying immigrants (76 percent favorable, 21 percent not); and shift more security resources to the Mexican border (79 percent favorable, 16 percent not).

Republican leaders are aggressively challenging Obama’s legal authority to take this executive action. The survey results show that Democrats have the better of this debate, with voters agreeing by a 10-point margin (51-41) that the president does have legal authority to act.  Independents agree that the president is acting lawfully by an 18-point margin (54-36).  This is the debate respondents heard: 

Democrats say the only way to fix our broken immigration system once and for all is for Congress to pass bipartisan legislation.  But in the meantime, the president has the legal authority to set enforcement priorities to deport drug dealers and smugglers instead of immigrants who have lived and worked here for years and are contributing to America. (51 percent agree.)

Republicans say that the president has no legal right to start rewriting the nation’s immigration laws-only Congress has the constitutional authority to do that.  A president can’t just decide to stop enforcing the laws he doesn’t like, and legalizing millions of illegal immigrants is an abuse of presidential power. (41 percent agree.)

Voters strongly reject aggressive strategies being considered by Republicans to block executive action, including a government shutdown and impeachment. By a 48-point margin (72 percent oppose, 24 percent favor) voters oppose a strategy of Republicans shutting down the government until the president agrees to end his executive action.  While tea party Republicans favor a shutdown strategy by 61-36 percent, Republicans who do not identify with the tea party oppose a shutdown by 62-32 percent.  And by a 31-point margin, voters oppose impeaching the president and removing him from office in response to this executive action (63 percent oppose, 32 percent favor). 

After hearing a detailed description of the provisions of the executive action, and a balanced debate over the policy, voters support it by an even larger – 69-27 percent – majority. Voters also say, after learning about executive action and hearing the debate, that they have more confidence in President Obama (44 percent) than in Republicans in Congress (35 percent) to deal with immigration (independents trust Obama by an even larger, 21-point margin, 47-26 percent). 

Photo: Gaby Perez, left, hands over all her paperwork to get guidance from immigration attorney Jose Penalosa, right, in Phoenix, Arizona, for the Deferred Action program. Ross D. Franklin/AP


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Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.