Poll: Voters Trust GOP Over Democrats on Immigration

Survey also finds Americans believe Trump delivering on key promises

by Brendan Kirby | Updated 28 Feb 2017 at 2:22 PM

Voters trust Republicans in Congress over Democrats to handle immigration, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll released Tuesday.

The survey of 2,000 registered voters conducted from Friday through Sunday also shows President Donald Trump with a 50-percent approval rating — one of the highest marks of his presidency — and that 56 percent believe the president is delivering on his campaign promises. A large majority, 69 percent, said Trump has accomplished as much or more than they expected during his first month in office.

“But the second you insert the number, that a million people a year come into the country, that’s when you start to see the responses shift a little bit.”

The poll offers positive news for Trump has he prepares to address a join session of Congress Tuesday evening.

On immigration, 45 percent of respondents said they trust congressional Republicans more, while 36 percent trust Democrats. The 8-point spread is one of the largest gaps on any of the issued polled.

And yet, people expressed views closer to Democrats on a number of immigration specifics. Asked about people living illegally in the country, 46 percent favored a path to citizenship and another 7 percent preferred legal status short of citizenship. Only 38 percent said those foreigners should be forced to leave.

A majority of voters favored more immigration by people with skills and college degrees, and 55 percent even said America should allow more immigrants with only high school degrees.

On the question of whether immigrants strengthen the country or are a burden, respondents split 43 percent to 43 percent.

Chris Chmielenski, director of content and activism at NumbersUSA, said he believes voters said they favor Republicans on immigration because they associate the question with enforcement of laws against illegal immigration. He pointed to a Harvard-Harris poll last week indicating that 80 percent of respondents believe cities and counties should report illegal immigrants to federal authorities.

Chmielenski said people tend to favor mass amnesty over mass deportation if given a stark choice. He said he suspects the poll would have produced different results if it had asked about specific classes of illegal immigrants, such as those who commit crimes.

Even with fewer options, he said, it is noteworthy that 38 percent of respondents favored deportation of illegal immigrants.

“That’s a pretty high number,” he said.

Since the immigration debate tends to be dominated by questions of illegal immigration, Chmielenski said, people think less about the implications of legal immigration. He said Americans are pre-disposed to support immigration. But he added that most people think the ideal number of immigrants is far lower than the 1.1 million who enter each year.

“You see in the responses that most people are open to immigration, as we are. We’re pro-immigration,” he said. “But the second you insert the number, that a million people a year come into the country, that’s when you start to see the responses shift a little bit … Unfortunately, the vast majority don’t realize just how generous we are on immigration.”

The poll also suggests that 61 percent of voters want the number of H-1B visas for high-skill guest workers to remain the same or increase. A plurality think that H-1B visa workers help the economy. The program has come under fire the past few years amid reports that large corporations have used it to outsource jobs.

Chmielenski noted the large number of respondents who expressed no opinion as a sign that many people simply do not know enough about the program.

The question asked in the poll described the visa holders as "highly skilled, trained" workers. But Chmielenski said that in practice, H-1B visa workers often are not exceptionally talented.

"The reality is they only have to have a bachelor's degree or equivalent experience," he said.

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