Politics

Republicans Prioritize Immigration; Dems, Financial Reform

by Frank Newport

Americans split more evenly; give energy legislation lowest priority overall

PRINCETON, NJ -- When asked which of three current legislative initiatives in Congress should be the priority, Americans who identify as Democrats favor a focus on financial reform, while independents and Republicans choose immigration. All three political groups give a new energy bill low priority.

Which of These (Three Issues) Do You Think Should Be Congress' Highest Priority Right Now? (Legislation Dealing With Financial Practices of Wall Street and Major Financial Institutions; Dealing With Illegal Immigrants and Illegal Immigration; Dealing With Energy, Climate Change, and the Environment) By Political Party

This question was included in Gallup Daily tracking April 27-28, at a time of considerable disagreement in Washington, D.C., over the current legislative agenda.

While debate continues on a financial overhaul bill, Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democratic senators have introduced the outlines of new immigration legislation. Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has reacted negatively to an apparent sidelining of the energy and climate change bill he has been working on with Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

Overall, Americans are roughly split between giving priority to financial overhaul legislation and giving it to immigration legislation, 39% to 36%, respectively. About one in five Americans would give priority to legislation dealing with energy, climate change, and the environment.

Which of These (Three Issues) Do You Think Should Be Congress' Highest Priority Right Now?

Relation to Views on Arizona Law

Immigration has resurfaced as a hot issue in recent days after new and controversial immigration legislation has become law in the state of Arizona. The majority of those in the current poll who are aware of and favor the Arizona law say immigration legislation should be the highest priority for Congress. On the other hand, a much smaller 25% of those who oppose the Arizona legislation say Congress should give immigration the highest priority.

These data suggest that those who prioritize immigration legislation at the national level may have in mind laws that are similar to the one enacted in Arizona. Or it may be that those who are concerned about illegal immigration as a national problem favor any legislation -- at both the state and national levels -- that deals with the issue.

Bottom Line

Legislators looking to the public for guidance on prioritizing legislation will not find crystal clear direction. Americans give roughly equal priority to financial reform and immigration legislation. It is clear, however, that despite efforts to move energy and climate-change legislation forward, Americans at this point give it the lowest priority -- consistent with previous Gallup research showing that Americans are less worried about the environment than they have been previously.

Politically, these new data show how complex legislative prioritization can become. Some observers have noted that Sen. Reid is pushing immigration legislation onto the Senate's front burner because of a need to appeal to Hispanic voters in his home state of Nevada this election year. Whatever Reid's reasons, however, the data show that rank-and-file Republicans across the country are more likely to give high priority to immigration legislation than are Democrats, who would rather have Congress focus first on financial overhaul legislation. It is not clear, of course, whether the type of immigration legislation Reid and other Democrats propose is exactly what Republicans have in mind.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,013 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 27-28, 2010, as part of Gallup Daily tracking. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points. The questions were asked of a random half sample of respondents on the Gallup Daily tracking survey for two nights.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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