Poll: 68 Percent Say Secure the Border First, Then Make Other Immigration Changes

Posted: Apr 24, 2013 10:19 AM

The latest Fox News poll on immigration is a fount of interesting -- and seemingly contradictory -- political data.  Let's dig in.  First thing's first:

Border security is another aspect of this issue, and opinions are changing. Nearly twice as many voters say border security is at the right level today (32 percent) as said so in 2010 (18 percent). Still, the poll finds 60 percent of voters think it is not strict enough, and another 68 percent want new border security measures to be completed before changes to immigration policies. Republicans (75 percent) are more likely than Democrats (66 percent) to say new security should be done first.

The real headline here is that two-thirds of Democrats back a "border security first" approach, which the most ardent advocates for "comprehensive" reform have resisted for years.  The 'Gang of Eight' pact ostensibly addresses this point by erecting a series of security triggers along the path to amnesty, but for reasons I've explicated over the last two weeks, I'm skeptical about the efficacy of those benchmarks.  I'm not alone.  From a separate national survey:

But the poll found that only 23 percent of the likely 2014 voters surveyed believe that the government will actually be able secure the border, whereas 53 percent believe it will not. The immigration bill also aims to prevent newly legalized residents from going directly on government assistance and living at taxpayer expense. But 49 percent of those surveyed believe the government will be unable to prevent this from happening.

The fact is, Americans have heard a string of promises about immigration reform and border enforcement from their elected officials for many years -- yet the problem endures, to put things charitably.  'Gang' backers face another PR headwind: Overall trust in the federal government is scraping the bottom of the barrel, skepticism that's no doubt been spurred by failed and wasteful programs like the "stimulus," and a deteriorating healthcare law:


Just 28% rate the federal government in Washington favorably. That is down five points from a year ago and the lowest percentage ever in a Pew Research Center survey. The percentage of Democrats expressing a favorable opinion of the federal government has declined 10 points in the past year, from 51% to 41%. For the first time since Barack Obama became president, more Democrats say they have an unfavorable view of the federal government in Washington than a favorable view (51% unfavorable vs. 41% favorable). Favorable opinions of the federal government among Republicans, already quite low in 2012 (20% favorable), have fallen even further, to 13% currently.  

People don't trust the federal government to do much of anything competently, let alone fix a perennial problem that Washington has failed to adequately address for decades.  Reports like this about shifting goalposts and slippery standards don't help matters either.  Back to the Fox poll for a moment, which includes some additional nuggets.  In spite of their deep-seated cynicism, Americans overwhelmingly endorse (78/21) a path to citizenship for most illegals who are currently in the country, presumably after the border issues are resolved.  But is that welcoming spirit running on empty?  This is eye-opening:

More than half say we should cut the number of legal immigrants allowed into the United States. A just-released Fox News poll finds 55 percent of voters think fewer legal immigrants should be accepted into the U.S. That’s up from 43 percent in 2010. Majorities of Republicans (67 percent) and independents (53 percent) as well as a plurality of Democrats (47 percent) want to decrease legal immigration. Overall, 28 percent of voters say the U.S. should increase legal immigration.  

Hasn't the mantra always been, "more legal immigration, less illegal immigration"?  Apparently not, and I must say that I'm a little dismayed by this result.  America has always been a nation of immigrants, and embracing those who come here in accordance with our laws has strengthened us throughout our history.  We should enthusiastically welcome educated and skilled workers in particular, yet less than a third of our citizens share that view, evidently.  At the same time, the poll reflected fairly positive views of immigrants overall, with a majority of respondents (50/38) asserting the belief that immigrants benefit the country.  A few more take-aways from the survey:

- President Obama has slipped deeper underwater on the issue, with 39 percent approving of his performance and 51 percent disapproving.

- A plurality of Americans say illegal immigration is a bigger problem today than it was five years ago (when Obama took office), nearly five times the number of those who responded that things have improved.

- Despite all the recent discussion of immigration and guns within the Beltway, these issues aren't priorities for the public.  Only four percent of Americans identify immigration reform as the top issue facing the nation; five percent say the same of gun control.

I'll leave you with this:

That's a new television ad from a group called "Americans for a Conservative Direction." It's airing in six states (Texas, Florida, Utah, North Carolina, Iowa and Kentucky), and urges conservatives to stand behind the bipartisan proposal -- casting it as a super-tough border enforcement plan.  Will the Right bite?  If National Review's editors are any indication, it's going to be a tough sell.  I share several of the concerns laid out in NR's editorial and hope to address a number of them in a one-on-one interview with Sen. Rubio later today.  Stay tuned...

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