While Majority Unsure About Immigration Bill, Those With Opinion Are Strongly Opposed

by Frank Newport

Little difference in level of support between Republicans and Democrats

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Although the majority of Americans claim that they don't know enough about the controversial immigration bill now being debated in Congress to have an opinion about it, opposition outweighs support by a three to one margin among those who do have an opinion. Among those who say they are following news of the immigration bill most closely, opposition is at the 60% level. There are only minor differences between Democrats and Republicans in terms of views of the bill. Independents are most likely to be opposed. Those who are opposed to the bill are most likely to cite that it provides "amnesty" to illegal immigrants in this country as the reason for their opposition.

Attention Being Paid

Gallup's standard question asking Americans how closely they are following news events shows that only 18% are following news about the bill very closely, and another 42% are following it somewhat closely.

As you may know, Senate leaders and the president recently agreed on a bill dealing with the issue of illegal immigration. The legislation will be debated in Congress this coming week. How closely have you been following the news about this proposed bill to deal with the issue of illegal immigration -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely, or not at all?

 

 

Very closely

Somewhat closely

Not too closely

Not at all

No opinion

           

2007 Jun 1-3

18%

42

28

12

--

The 60% who are following this bill very or somewhat closely is exactly the average for all news events tracked by Gallup over the last decade or so. In other words, Americans are not paying a particularly high level of attention to this bill.

There is little meaningful difference in the attention being paid to this bill by partisanship:

 

How closely have you been following the news about this proposed bill to deal with the issue of illegal immigration -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely, or not at all?

 

% following news about proposed immigration bill very or somewhat closely

TOTAL SAMPLE

60

Republicans

63

Independents

62

Democrats

57

Support for the Legislation With No Explanation

Previous surveys conducted by Gallup and other organizations have provided respondents with descriptions of the types of provisions included in the immigration bill now being debated in the Senate, and have asked for reaction. In some instances, these provisions have been listed separately. In others, they have been combined into one broad description of a possible immigration bill.

This research has generally shown that a majority of Americans support the types of provisions tentatively included in the bill -- including some type of pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants now in this country. (See Related Items.)

The current research approached public opinion on the immigration bill in a different way. Rather than explaining or listing the contents of the bill, the research simply asked respondents how closely they were following news about the bill and then asked if they favored the bill, opposed the bill, or if they "didn't know enough to say."

Based on what you have heard or read about it, do you favor or oppose this proposed bill, or don't you know enough to say?

 

 

Favor

Oppose

Don't know enough to say

No answer

         

2007 Jun 1-3

11%

30

58

1

(Asked of those who either favor or oppose the proposed immigration bill) Do you [favor/oppose] this bill strongly or only moderately?

COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.19-20): BASED ON NATIONAL ADULTS

 

 

Favor, strongly

Favor,  moderately

Oppose,  moderately

Oppose, strongly

Don't know enough to say

No answer

             

2007 Jun 1-3

4%

7

12

18

58

1

One of the important findings here is that a majority of Americans simply don't have an opinion on the immigration bill -- despite its prominence in news coverage and talk show discussions in recent weeks. This is consistent with the data showing that only 18% of Americans say they are following news about the bill very closely.

The second important finding is that among those do know enough about the bill to have an opinion, there is roughly a three to one level of opposition over support. Additionally, a majority of opponents to the bill feel strongly about their views, while a majority of those who favor the bill say they don't feel strongly about their opinion.

In short, there is a core group of about one-third of Americans who are opposed to the bill, counterbalanced by only about one-tenth who support it. This is in the context of the largest group of Americans -- a clear majority -- that says they don't know enough about the bill to have an opinion about it.

Opposition to the bill is very high -- 61% -- among those who are paying very close attention to it, while only 17% of this group favor it. The ratio of opposition to support drops among those who are following news of the bill somewhat closely, and even more so among the few Americans not paying much attention to the bill who have an opinion.

 

Based on what you have heard or read about it, do you favor or oppose this proposed bill, or don't you know enough to say?

 

Favor

Oppose

Don't know enough to say

No answer

 

%

%

%

%

How closely following news about the immigration bill?

       
         

Very closely

17

61

20

2

Somewhat closely

15

37

48

*

Not closely

4

9

87

*

* = Less than 0.5%

Interestingly, about one out of five of those who say they are paying very close attention to the bill still say they don't have an opinion on it. That increases to almost 9 out of 10 of those who say they are not paying attention to the bill.

There is not a great deal of difference between Republicans and Democrats in terms of levels of support or opposition to the bill. Interestingly, independents have the highest ratio of opposition to favorability among the three partisan groups.

 

Based on what you have heard or read about it, do you favor or oppose this proposed bill, or don't you know enough to say?

 

Favor

Oppose

Don't know enough to say

No answer

 

%

%

%

%

         

Republicans

15

30

58

1

Independents

7

36

56

1

Democrats

11

25

64

--

Reasons for Support and Opposition to the Bill

Those Americans who either favor or oppose the bill were asked to give some of the reasons why in their own words.

A substantial percentage of the small number of Americans who favor the bill say they support it because they agree with specific provisions in the bill: including the requirements immigrants would have to meet in order to become citizens and that the bill would set limits on who can come into the country. Others may not necessarily agree with all the specifics of the bill but support in on practical grounds, saying that something needs to be done to address the issue and that this bill may be the best compromise that can be achieved:

(Asked of those who favor the proposed immigration bill) What are the main reasons why you favor this bill? [OPEN-ENDED]

 

 

2007 Jun 1-3

%

Agree with requirements illegal immigrants must meet to stay in the U.S./become citizens

28

Need to do something to address issue

21

Helps control who can come into the U.S./sets limits

18

Good/fair compromise/best that can be achieved

14

Impractical to send all illegal immigrants already here back to their home country

13

Need workers over here to do jobs Americans won't do

9

   

Other

2

No reason in particular (vol.)

--

No opinion

9

Percentages add to more than 100% due to multiple responses.

(vol.) = Volunteered response

Those Americans who oppose the bill are most likely to volunteer that their opposition is based on the perception that the bill grants amnesty to illegal immigrants now living in this country. Others oppose it because they believe the bill should have stiffer penalties, because they believe the new law won't work, and because they are negative about the impact of illegal immigrants in general:

(Asked of those who oppose the proposed immigration bill) What are the main reasons why you oppose this bill? [OPEN-ENDED]

 

 

2007 Jun 1-3

%

Grants amnesty to illegal immigrants/should not reward those who came illegally

39

Bill should have stronger/stiffer penalties for illegal immigrants

17

New laws won't work/won't take care of the problem

15

Immigrants cost taxpayers too much by using health, welfare, school services

11

Too many people in the U.S. already/should not allow so many in

10

Taking jobs from American workers

7

Penalties/fines on immigrants are too stiff

7

Need to do more about border security

6

   

Other

6

No reason in particular (vol.)

1

No opinion

1

Percentages add to more than 100% due to multiple responses.

(vol.) = Volunteered response

Bottom Line

The pattern of Americans' attitudes toward illegal immigration and in particular toward the immigration bill now being debated in the Senate is complex.

A good deal of previous research has shown that Americans support the general provisions that are included in the bill, including increased border security and some type of pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in this country -- providing that they meet certain requirements.

But the political reality is that the current debate on the bill agreed to in principle by Senate leaders and President Bush (and which is now being argued about in the Senate) is taking place in an environment in which the average American simply is not tuned in. Only 18% of Americans are following the news about the bill closely, and almost 6 in 10 say that they don't know enough about the proposed legislation to have an opinion about it.

Those Americans who are following the debate closely are highly likely to be opponents of the bill. Among those who know enough to have an opinion, the bill is opposed by almost a three to one margin. Among those who say they are following the news about the bill very closely, opposition outweighs support by almost a four to one margin.

Politically speaking, it would not be surprising to find that elected representatives who hear from their constituents are highly likely to be getting negative feedback about the bill. The majority who may favor the bill in principle are not paying much attention at the moment and are generally likely to be silent. House and Senate members, therefore, must in some ways make a decision between responding to the minority who are making their voices heard, or the majority whose views are measured in polls, but who are not taking the time nor making the effort to voice their sentiments in any other way.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,007 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted June 1-3, 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. 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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Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/27775/While-Majority-Unsure-About-Immigration-Bill-Those-Opinion.aspx
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