WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are split down the middle on whether they would prefer to vote for a candidate who wants to keep or undo President Barack Obama's executive action to let some immigrants living in the U.S. illegally stay in the country, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.
But even Republicans don't necessarily see a candidate's support for that action as a deal breaker for their votes.
The poll was conducted before former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that she supports a path to citizenship and that, if elected president, she would expand the protections for immigrants laid out in Obama's executive action.
Five things to know about public opinion on immigration:
HALF SUPPORT PATH TO CITIZENSHIP, LEGAL STATUS
Most Americans — 53 percent — say they favor providing a way for immigrants who are already in the United States illegally to become U.S. citizens, while 44 percent are opposed.
And although Clinton drew a stark line Tuesday between support for citizenship and support for legal status to stay, the poll shows that distinction makes little difference in people's support for a change in immigration policy.
Among Americans asked if they favor a way for those already in the United States to stay legally, 50 percent were in favor and 48 percent opposed — not a significant difference from support for a path to citizenship.
DIVISION OVER OBAMA EXECUTIVE ACTION
Forty-nine percent say they're more likely to support someone who wants to keep Obama's immigration action in place, while 47 percent would rather vote for someone who wants to undo it, the AP-GfK poll shows.
That's true even though most Americans support the policies that make up the executive action. Fifty-nine percent favor providing a way for immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children to stay legally, and 57 percent support allowing those who are in the country but whose children are U.S. citizens or permanent residents to stay.
Americans on both sides of the executive action issue are just as likely to say that they could imagine voting for a candidate who disagrees with them as say they could not.
NOT A DEAL BREAKER FOR REPUBLICANS
Even among Republicans, many say they could see themselves voting for a candidate who wants to keep Obama's action in place.
Three-quarters of Republicans say they would prefer to vote for a candidate who would undo it, but a combined 55 percent would either prefer to support a candidate who would keep it in place or could imagine themselves voting for such a candidate.
Even among conservative Republicans, nearly half — 47 percent — could at least imagine voting for a candidate who would keep the action in place.
Significant minorities of Republicans — about 4 in 10 — support allowing immigrants brought to the United States as children, along with parents of citizens or permanent residents, to stay legally.
LINE IN THE SAND FOR HISPANICS
Three-quarters of Hispanics in the poll say that they would prefer to support a candidate who would keep Obama's executive action in place, and a majority — 53 percent of Hispanics overall — say they definitely could not support a candidate who wants to undo it.
Eight in 10 Hispanics in the poll favor allowing those brought to the country as children, and those who are parents of citizens or permanent residents, to stay legally.
Hispanics are more likely to trust Democrats than Republicans on handling immigration, 36 percent to 21 percent. But nearly a third don't trust either party on the issue.
Among all Americans, 30 percent trust Democrats more and 26 percent trust Republicans more, while29 percent trust neither party and 15 percent trust both equally.
MOST DISAPPROVE OF OBAMA'S HANDLING OF IMMIGRATION
Americans are more likely to disapprove than approve of how the president is handling immigration, 57 percent to 42 percent. That's unchanged since the last AP-GfK poll early in February.
Fifty-seven percent of Americans call immigration a very or extremely important issue to them personally, up slightly since 52 percent in February.
Among Hispanics, 6 in 10 approve of how Obama is handling immigration. In October, before he announced the immigration action, only 3 in 10 did.
The AP-GfK Poll of 1,077 adults was conducted online April 23-27, using a sample drawn from GfK's probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. Some questions were asked of a half sample and have a higher margin of error.
Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.
AP-GfK Poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com
Follow Emily Swanson on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/EL_Swan