Educated People More Welcoming To Immigration Reform

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Earlier this month, I wrote an article titled “10 Facts That Prove America Is Becoming More Liberal” that detailed findings from a December 2012 Quinnipiac University Polling Institute poll. The poll showed that, overall, Americans are becoming more liberal. One of the significant findings of the study was that Americans are much more open about immigration reform than we realized, and certainly more than they were two years ago. With approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the U.S., these findings are significant.

From November 28 – December 3, 2012, Quinnipiac University polled 1,949 registered voters nationwide, with a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percentage points. Live interviews were conducted via land lines and cell phones. The results offer some startling evidence that we are on a steady path toward becoming more liberal as a collective. By 70 – 26 percent, voters support the Dream Act, which will allow young immigrants to stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation. Immigration reform is largely favored by voters:

  • 57% of voters believe undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay and apply for citizenship
  • 26 percent say they should be deported
  • 11 percent say they should be allowed to stay with no path to citizenship (Source)

A new Pew Research Center poll of 1,501 conducted March 13-17 shows findings that were somewhat different. Less than half of people surveyed – 43 percent overall – support a pathway to citizenship, but most (71 percent) favor a form of legal residency. However, the same jerks seem to be in all the polls, because the Pew poll shows that 27 percent of people think that immigrants should not be allowed to remain in the U.S. legally – 26 percent in the Quinnipiac poll. 49 percent of people recognize that immigrants strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents. These numbers contrast greatly with a 2010 Pew poll: only 39 percent that year said that immigrants strengthen the country.

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This chart shows the specific data about which demographic groups welcome immigrants. The long-held myth of competition and dislike among minority groups has been dispelled by this poll. 82 percent of African-Americans feel that undocumented immigrants – the majority of whom are Hispanic – should be able to stay in the country, while only 67 percent of Caucasian people answered the same way. Age and education level play a large factor. The demographic aged 18-29 is significantly more welcoming than are older age groups, and college educated people are also more open to immigrants making the U.S. home.


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Variance in polling seems to occur when a survey gives multiple options. Example:

  1. Pathway to citizenship
  2. Legal status that isn’t citizenship
  3. No legal status

With those three options, a significantly smaller percentage of people choose citizenship. By contrast, when people are given only a yes or no option to a pathway to citizenship, the majority choose yes. However, in the Quinnipiac poll, a majority supported a pathway to citizenship even when a middle option –  remain but not apply for citizenship – was offered.

Gallup surveys show a similar trend. From Raw Story:

In Gallup surveys, 55 percent of Americans in 2012 said it’s more important to develop a plan to deal with immigrants already in the US than to halt the flow of illegal immigration. From 2006 through 2011 “halting the flow” had majority support.

And, separately, Americans have become more welcoming toward legal immigration, Gallup finds. As of 2012, it remained true that more people favored reducing the level of immigration than increasing it. But the “decrease immigration” view outmatched the “increase” view by the smallest amount (14 percentage points) that’s been seen in Gallup surveys going back to 1986.

I study a lot of polls, and immigration reform is an issue I follow fairly closely. My opinion? Any poll done prior to the 2012 election needs to be used as comparison with new trends in public opinion, but those polls do not reflect what America thinks about this topic today. The reason? The 2012 election. Thinking people who, before, had either some misgivings about immigration or no opinion at all were somewhat stunned by the vitriol towards undocumented immigrants that was displayed in the GOP primary race. When phrases such as “self-deport” and “electric fence” began to be tossed about by people who could potentially be President of the United States, some groups cheered and others were shocked. There just isn’t a middle ground when it comes down to an electric fence on the border. I think the election really pushed people over the edge into a solid opinion one way or another.

Additionally, many center-leaning (read: SANE) Republicans are recognizing that the GOP must evolve on this issue or die. By the year 2030, the Hispanic demographic will be the largest demographic in the U.S. There is simply no solid place in our country for people who want to continue to be closed-minded about this issue.

With 11 million undocumented immigrants estimated to be living in the U.S., these findings can’t be ignored, and most people recognize that it is a reality, and that immigrants are human beings who have the same goals and dreams for their families that we do. You can download the study in PDF format here.


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I am an unapologetic member of the Christian Left, and have spent a lot of time working with “the least of these” and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. I’m passionate about their struggles. To stay on top of topics I discuss, visit my blogsubscribe to my public updates on Facebook, or follow me on TwitterFind me somewhere and let’s discuss stuff.