Senate immigration plan wins majority support from public

July 18, 2013

A big majority of Americans supports a Senate-approved surge of manpower and fencing along the U.S. Mexico border, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. But some recoil at the $46 billion price tag, highlighting deep partisan disagreement about whether the heightened effort is worth the cost.

The second major component of the Senate bill also wins majority support. Some 55 percent support a "pathway to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants, nearly identical to three recent Post-ABC polls asking the same question about "illegal immigrants."

On Tuesday President Obama demanded once again that Congress include a way for undocumented immigrants to become citizens, a sticking point for House Republicans who want to address border security first. The poll finds continued hesitance among their base: 58 percent of Republicans oppose a path to citizenship, while most independents (55 percent) and Democrats (69 percent) support it.

An even larger majority, 64 percent, support adding 20,000 border agents and 700 miles of fence along the border with Mexico. But support drops by 11 percentage points, to 53 percent, among the random half of respondents who were asked the same question but also told the measures came "at a cost of 46 billion dollars." (Respondents were randomly assigned to hear the proposal with or without the cost; results for each group are reported separately).

While Senate bill's two cornerstones each enjoy majority support, the overlap is far from complete and breaks down along well-worn party lines. Democrats express wide support for a pathway to citizenship but fewer than half (43 percent) support border controls for the price of $46 billion. Republicans overwhelmingly support heightened border control but are against the idea of a citizenship path.

The survey underscores the competing priorities Americans see on the immigration issue. The 11-point drop in support for border measures indicates that some people only support border control efforts up to a point. Most people want to secure the border but some are discouraged by the cost of doing so.

Support for a path to citizenship also ranges widely across pollsters and question wording. While most polls have found majority support for the idea, the public seems more inclined to support the idea when questions specify multiple conditions under which a legal status can be achieved. This may indicate that the public sees value in requiring undocumented immigrants to go through a rigorous process before gaining a route to citizenship.

Fixbits:

Obama will highlight popular aspects of Obamacare on Thursday. Meanwhile, the House voted to delay parts of Obamacare.

Former Maine Republican senator Olympia Snowe is teaming up with Main Street Advocacy and its allied super PAC to raise and spend $8 million defending centrist Republican incumbents.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Congress should address children brought to the U.S. illegally.

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) has spent nearly $200,000 to defend her district from being reshaped by Republicans.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will face the Tea Party Caucus next week.

Grover Norquist is open to backing Liz Cheney over Wyoming Republican Sen. Mike Enzi.

A high school student irritated White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) hung out with Bunk.

Must-reads:

"McDonnell helped benefactor get meeting with Va. health secretary, e-mails show" -- Laura Vozzella and Rosalind S. Helderman, Washington Post

"Dems pin immigration hopes on GOP's Ryan" -- Donna Cassata, Associated Press

Clement is a survey research analyst with Capital Insight, the independent polling group of Washington Post Media. 
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