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How Public Opinion on Immigration Reform Has Changed in the Last Year How Public Opinion on Immigration Reform Has Changed in the Last Year

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How Public Opinion on Immigration Reform Has Changed in the Last Year

In short: Not much. A majority of Americans still want a pathway to citizenship.


An immigration activist on the West Lawn of the Capitol in April 2013.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It's been almost a year since the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration-reform bill, and public opinion on how Washington should tackle the issue has remained largely unchanged.

That's according to findings from a new joint survey by Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution, which found that 62 percent of respondents—the same as last year—support undocumented immigrants being able to become citizens, should they meet particular requirements.


Equal numbers of tea-party-aligned Republicans back a pathway to citizenship as do support identifying and deporting undocumented immigrants: 37 percent. And just 23 percent favor allowing the undocumented to become legal, permanent residents, which aligns with House GOP immigration principles unveiled earlier in the year.

More broadly, 70 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of independents, and 51 percent of Republicans support a pathway to citizenship—almost identical to a year ago.

Support for a pathway to citizenship is down among one notable group: white evangelical Protestants. Last year, a majority backed such a policy. That support has dropped in the last year by 8 points, to 48 percent.


Attitudes about the impact of immigration on the American economy have also shifted. Last year, 56 percent of Americans said that illegal immigration hurts the economy by driving low wages. Now, 46 percent think that, while 45 percent say illegal immigration helps the economy by providing low-cost labor.

Advocates for immigration reform see this summer as the final window of opportunity for legislation to pass the House. President Obama has held off on taking new executive actions related to deportation enforcement in the name of giving House Republicans enough space to pass something bigger. But the GOP doesn't seem to be budging.

Although support is high for making changes to the immigration system that align with the Senate-passed bill—namely allowing for a pathway to citizenship—that doesn't mean that most Americans are extremely passionate about Washington doing something. Higher percentages of Democrats, independents, and Republicans say that "dealing with the moral breakdown of the country" should be the highest priority for Washington than say the same about reforming the nation's immigration system.

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