The Washington Post

Washington is deeply engaged with immigration. The public? Not so much.

The debate over whether and how to reform the nation's immigration laws has seized the attention of Washington. But beyond the beltway, Americans are barely tuning in.

Fewer than half (44 percent) say they are following the debate very or fairly closely, according to a new Pew Research Center poll. And a plurality (38 percent) don't have an opinion on the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" measure that was recently introduced in the Senate. Those who do have an opinion are split over the bill.

The poll comes as conservative opponents have begun to fight the measure, which includes a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, a component fewer than half of Americans are aware of, according to the Pew poll.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), one the bill's architects and its chief conservative defender, has been waging an intense public relations campaign aimed at courting support from the political right and preventing opponents from sinking the measure's chances. So far, he's had a tough time.

The fact that the public is not engaged on the debate is a crucial factor for both defenders and opponents of reform. It means that either side can still shape public opinion. So it's no surprise we have seen such an intense lobbying effort both for and against the proposed overhaul.

A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that nearly all of the big individual aspects of the "Gang of Eight" bill won majority support, a sign that proponents can have the potential for success in selling their measure. But given that most people 1) aren't familiar with bill right now and 2) haven't made up their minds about it as a package, there remains ample opportunity for opponents to strike.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Don’t be ‘that’ sports parent | On Parenting
Miss Manners: The technology's changed, but the rules are the same
A flood of refugees from Syria but only a trickle to America
Play Videos
John Lewis, 'Marv the Barb' and the politics of barber shops
Kids share best advice from mom
Using Fitbit to help kids lose weight
Play Videos
This man's job is binge-watching for Netflix
Transgender swimmer now on Harvard men's team
Portland's most important meal of the day
Play Videos
5 ways to raise girls to be leaders
How much can one woman eat?
The signature drink of New Orleans
Next Story
Sean Sullivan · May 1, 2013

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.