While Obama blames Republicans in Congress for blocking comprehensive reform in 2013, an October Washington Post-ABC News poll found just as many trust Republicans (40 percent) as Democrats (37 percent) to handle immigration issues. Obama’s approval marks for handling immigration also hit a record low this fall, and an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll this week found 56 percent wanted Congress, not Obama, to take the lead role in setting overall policy for the country.
3. Most polls show clear majority support for a path to some kind of legal status, but not all do
A single NBC/WSJ poll released this week finds a 35-percentage point difference in support for a path to legal status versus a path to citizenship, depending on how the question is worded. The wide variation is nothing new.
4. Americans' support legal status more when significant strings are attached
A big reason for the differences in No. 3 is the number of hoops that illegal immigrants need to jump through. Polls show Americans are most likely to support legalization policies that impose significant hurdles for undocumented immigrants to gain legal status. The below table from earlier this year shows how a path to legal status fared in polls, depending on the question wording.
This is in part why the 2013 comprehensive Senate bill polled extremely well -- lots of specifics on the path to citizenship. A key issue to watch in Obama’s executive action is what requirements (if any) will be needed for undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation. The more, the better -- at least as far as public perception goes.
5. Americans want Washington to prioritize both border security and a path to legal status
6. The opposition is more motivated
Despite the support for some form of legalization, a Post-ABC poll earlier this year found more Americans saying they would be less likely to vote for a candidate for Congress who supports a path to citizenship (36 percent) than those who say they would be more likely (27 percent). This is one reason why Obama may have delayed taking executive action until after the election -- and why comprehensive immigration legislation has struggled in Congress.
7. In the long-run, Americans are becoming less worried about illegal immigration
Long-running polling from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs find fewer and fewer Americans say reducing the number of illegal immigrants is a "very important goal" and fewer seeing large numbers of immigrants and refugees as a "critical threat." One important attitude that hasn't ebbed, though is this: "we should restrict and control people coming to live in our country more than we do now." Sixty-nine percent said this in a 2012 Pew Research Center poll.