Pushing Amnesty Very Risky for GOP

Apr 05, 2013, 05:15 ET from Center for Immigration Studies

Poll Finds Americans, Especially Republicans, Want Immigration Enforcement

WASHINGTON, April 5, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new Poll by Pulse Opinion Research shows that likely voters, particularly Republicans, strongly favor enforcement over legalization for illegal immigrants. Unlike a number of other recent polls, the new survey avoids the false choice of conditional legalization versus mass deportation. The survey also shows that a significant majority of Republicans, and voters generally, are less likely to vote for members of Congress or a political party that supports legalization.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20120806/MM52838LOGO)

The poll is online at http://cis.org/legalization-vs-enforcement-what-the-american-people-think.  

Among the findings:

  • Of likely Republican voters, 88 percent said they support reducing the illegal immigrant population by requiring employers to check workers' legal status, fortifying the border, and getting the cooperation of local police. Of all likely voters, 72 percent supported this approach.
  • The poll does find support for legalizing illegal immigrants. Of likely Republican voters, 47 percent said they support giving illegal immigrants legal status if they pay a fine, study English, and undergo a background check. Of all likely voters, 61 percent support this approach.
  • When asked which of these two approaches they prefer, 82 percent of Republicans said they support reducing the illegal immigrant population compared to 12 percent who preferred conditional legalization.
  • Among all likely voters, 58 percent said they support reducing the illegal immigrant population, compared to 31 percent who said they preferred conditional legalization.
  • Supporting legalization is politically very risky. Of Republican voters, 79 percent said they would be less likely to vote for a member of Congress who supported legalization, while just 8 percent of voters said they would be more likely to vote for a member who supported legalization.
  • Of all likely voters, 56 percent said they would be less likely to vote for a member of Congress who supports legalization, while just 27 percent said they would be more likely to vote for a member who supports legalization.
  • A number of conservative evangelical leaders have endorsed the idea of legalizing illegal immigrants. However, among self-identified white evangelicals, enforcement is by far the most popular option: 79 percent said they preferred reducing the illegal immigrant population by enforcing the law, just 13 percent supported legalization with conditions.


In recent months many survey companies and organizations have asked extremely one-sided immigration questions that simply do not reflect the position of those advocating enforcement. Our poll avoids this problem by asking questions that actually reflect the policy debate. We first asked the public whether they would like the law enforced and the illegal immigrant population reduced. We then asked if they would support a conditional legalization. Finally, we asked which approach they prefer. All survey questions can be found in the table at the end of the Backgrounder.

The questions asked avoid the false choice between deporting all illegal immigrants — which no political leader is advocating — and a conditional legalization. The survey uses neutral language, avoiding terms like "amnesty", "illegal alien," and "undocumented". The findings strongly indicate that enforcement is very popular with the public and the preferred way to deal with illegal immigration.


The poll was conducted by Pulse Opinion Research for the Center for Immigration Studies and is a national survey of 1,443 likely voters conducted March 26-27. The margin of error is +/- 3 for the overall sample of likely voters and +/- 4 for Republicans.

The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research organization. Since its founding in 1985, the Center has pursued a single mission – providing immigration policymakers, the academic community, news media, and concerned citizens with reliable information about the social, economic, environmental, security, and fiscal consequences of legal and illegal immigration into the United States.

CONTACT: Marguerite Telford
mrt@cis.org (202) 466-8185

SOURCE Center for Immigration Studies