A poll released Tuesday by the Public Religion Research Institute shows that a large majority of Americans support a path to citizenship for immigrants who are in the United States illegally. Amazingly, 51% of Republican voters are in favor of citizenship for illegal immigrants, while another 17% support them receiving permanent legal resident status. Democrats (70%) and independents (61%) show greater support for citizenship. Overall, 62% of Americans are in favor of providing undocumented residents of this country a way to become legal citizens.
What is extremely interesting about this survey is that PRRI really drilled down into the details to find the key factors and demographics surrounding support of immigration reform. The ultimate findings are not all that surprising. However, it is refreshing in that it reinforced the preconceived ideas on who most opposes immigration reform and the possible reasons behind the opposition. What PRRI found is that if a person trusts Fox News, is a Tea Party member or a white evangelical Protestant, then support for a pathway to citizenship is lower than that of other Republicans, and definitely below that of the average American voter.
Only 42% of Republicans who trust Fox News as their primary news source believe that immigrants here illegally should be provided an opportunity to become American citizens. Meanwhile, 60% of Republicans who get their news from other sources support immigration reform that leads to citizenship for undocumented workers. As for independents that trust Fox News, only 48% of them support citizenship while 66% of those who trust other sources of news media more are in favor of giving these people an opportunity to be Americans. As a point of comparison, 71% of Americans who most trust public television are in favor of immigration reform.
When looking at different Christian groups, the survey found that white evangelical Protestants were the only group where the majority of people did not support a path to citizenship, with 48% stating they were in favor of it. Meanwhile, 58% of white mainline Protestants, 62% of minority Protestants, 63% of Catholics and 57% of white Catholics all support giving illegal immigrants an opportunity to become citizens. 68% of unaffiliated Americans support true immigration reform. Tea Party members are the ones most likely to oppose a path to citizenship and support full deportation of people here illegally. Only 37% support a path to citizenship, with another 23% in favor of green cards. Meanwhile, 37% said they would prefer that all people in this country illegally be deported.
PRRI wrote the following when discussing the greatest independent predictors for support and opposition to immigration reform:
- The two most powerful independent predictors of support for a path to citizenship are being young (under 30 years of age) and identifying as Hispanic. Holding a four-year college degree, being female, identifying with the Democratic Party, and most trusting MSNBC as an accurate news source are also significant predictors of support for immigration reform.
- In contrast, trust in Fox News as an accurate news source is the most powerful independent predictor of opposition to a path to citizenship. Identifying as Republican and being a born-again Christian are also significant predictors of opposition to immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.
While Fox News, and other conservative media outlets, might be hammering the idea that immigration reform will lead to the destruction of the fabric of this nation, it appears that the message isn’t taking hold. Sure, Tea Partiers and loyal Fox News watchers appear to be taking to the message, but not in the overwhelming numbers that you’d figure. At the same end, the majority of Republican voters are in favor of giving people here illegally a chance to become American citizens. As is always the case, Fox News is on the wrong side of history.