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Voters back citizenship, drivers’ licenses for immigrants

There is now nearly universal support among California voters to allow undocumented immigrants who have lived here for a number of years to stay and become citizens if they have a job, learn English, and pay back taxes. Statewide, 90% of voters now favor this policy.

 

In addition, in a reversal from previous measures, a 52% to 43% majority favors allowing undocumented residents to obtain California drivers’ licenses. In two previous Field Polls dating back to 2005, majorities opposed this idea.

 

Greater than seven in ten also support significantly increasing the number of visas granted to immigrants who are engineers or hold other advanced degrees, creating temporary worker programs for current and future undocumented workers, and allowing undocumented students to pay the same in-state tuition fees at the state’s public universities as other residents.

 

At the same time, voters are disinclined to relax some of the policies in place aimed at restricting the flow of undocumented immigrants into this country. There continues to be strong majority support for increasing the number of federal border agents patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as for imposing stiff penalties on employers and individuals who hire illegal immigrants.

These are the highlights of the latest Field Poll on immigration issues conducted this month among a representative cross-section of California voters.

 

Very large majorities of California voters now support enacting more permissive policies toward immigrants who have entered the country illegally. Nine in ten voters (90%) support allowing longtime undocumented residents to stay and be permitted to apply for citizenship if they have a job, learn English, and pay back taxes. This is the highest level of support for this proposal since the

Field Poll began tracking this issue seven years ago.

 

In addition, an increasing majority (76%) supports creating temporary worker programs for undocumented immigrants that would legalize their status and allow future immigrants to work here.

 

The poll also finds broad-based support (73%) for significantly increasing the number of visas granted to immigrants who are engineers or hold other advanced degrees.

 

At the same time, majorities of voters continue to back two policies aimed at restricting the flow of new illegal immigrants into this country. Two in three (65%) favor increasing the number of federal border agents patrolling the U.S.–Mexico border. In addition, nearly six in ten (57%) support imposing stiff penalties on employers and individuals who hire illegal immigrants.

 

Voters are more divided on two other border control policies. While 46% favor building more fences along major sections of the U. S. Mexico border, 47% are opposed. Similarly, while 46% support continuing the policy of having federal immigration agents round up, detain and deport immigrants found to be living her illegally, 43% are opposed.

 

There is general consensus among large majorities of white non-Hispanics and Latinos to allow long-time undocumented residents to stay and be permitted to apply for citizenship if they have a job, learn English, and pay back taxes. In addition, both groups back the idea of establishing temporary worker programs for undocumented workers that would legalize their status and allow future immigrants to work in this country.

 

Seven in ten white non-Hispanics and greater than eight in ten Latinos favor significantly increasing the number of visas issues to immigrants who are engineers or hold advanced degrees.

 

Majorities of white non-Hispanics and Latinos also concur with the policy of increasing the number of federal border agents patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border.

 

On the other hand, there are big differences in the opinions of white non-Hispanics and Latinos on two other measures aimed at restricting the flow of new illegal immigrants into this country. While majorities of white non-Hispanics favor imposing stiff penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants and continuing the policy of having federal immigration agents rounding up and deporting illegals, fewer than one in three Latinos agree with these policies.

 

In a reversal from previous measures, a 52% to 43% majority of California voters now agrees that undocumented immigrants living here should be allowed to get a driver’s license.

 

However, there are big partisan and ethnic differences on this issue. While Democrats favor this idea by a greater than two to one margin, Republicans are opposed by more than two to one.

 

In addition, white non–Hispanics are opposed to granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants 55% to 41%, while majorities of ethnic voters, especially Latinos, are supportive.

 

A solid 60% to 36% majority of California voters agree that undocumented students should be allowed to pay the same in-state tuition fees as other residents to attend the state’s public universities.

 

Democrats are very much in favor of this proposal – 71% to 25% – and independent voters are also supportive 60% to 33%. On the other hand, Republicans are narrowly opposed 53% to 45%.

 

White non-Hispanic voters are divided on this issue, with 50% in favor and 46% against. By contrast, Latinos are overwhelmingly in favor, 87% to 11%, while other ethnic voters are supportive nearly two to one.

Ed’s Note: The latest Field Poll was completed February 5-17, 2013 among 834 registered voters in California. Interviewing was conducted by telephone in English and Spanish using live interviewers working from Field Research Corporation’s central location telephone interviewing facilities. Up to six attempts were made to reach, screen and interview each randomly selected voter on different days and times of day during the interviewing period.

 


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