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Poll: Many say let illegal immigrants stay in U.S.

By Dennis Junius and Erica Werner

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:15 p.m. HST, Jan 22, 2013

WASHINGTON » More than 6 in 10 Americans now favor allowing illegal immigrants to eventually become U.S. citizens, a major increase in support driven by a turnaround in Republicans' opinions after the 2012 elections.

The finding, in a new Associated Press-GfK poll, comes as the Republican Party seeks to increase its meager support among Latino voters, who turned out in large numbers to help-re-elect President Barack Obama in November.

Emboldened by the overwhelming Hispanic backing and by shifting attitudes on immigration, Obama has made overhauling laws about who can legally live in the U.S. a centerpiece of his second-term agenda. In the coming weeks, he's expected to aggressively push for ways to create an eventual pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in this country.

The poll results suggest that the public overall, not just Hispanics, will back his efforts. Sixty-two percent of Americans now favor providing a way for illegal immigrants in the U.S. to become citizens, an increase from just 50 percent in the summer of 2010, the last time the AP polled on the question.

In an even earlier poll, in 2009, some 47 percent supported a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Further boosting the president on the issue, Democrats have opened a 41 percent to 34 percent advantage as the party more trusted to handle immigration, the first time they've held a significant edge on the matter in AP-GfK polling. In October 2010, Republicans held a slight edge over Democrats, 46 percent to 41 percent, on the question of who was more trusted on immigration.

Much of the increase in support for a path to eventual citizenship has come among Republicans. A majority in the GOP — 53 percent — now favor the change. That's up a striking 22 percentage points from 2010. Seventy-two percent of Democrats and 55 percent of independents like the idea, similar to 2010.

The findings suggest that those GOP lawmakers weighing support for eventual legal status for illegal immigrants could be rewarded politically not just by Democrats and independents but also by some in their own party as well. This comes amid soul-searching in the party about how the GOP can broaden its support with Latinos, who backed Obama over Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, 71 percent to 27 percent, in November. Romney received less support from Latinos than Republican President George W. Bush did. But his slice was on par with candidates Bob Dole in 1996 and George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Some Republicans have concluded that backing comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship is becoming a political necessity. Many lawmakers remain strongly opposed, and it's far from clear whether Congress will ultimately sign off on such an approach. But in the Senate, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is working to draft immigration legislation, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a possible 2016 presidential candidate, has offered proposals that would ultimately allow illegal immigrants to attain legal status.

One poll participant, Nick Nanos, 66, of Bellmore, N.Y., said that providing a way for illegal immigrants to become citizens would respect America's history as a nation built by immigrants.

"We act as if our grandparents got here legally. Don't want to ask a single Indian about that," Nanos said in a follow-up interview. "I don't think that most of us can solidly come to a point where our grandparents or great-grandparents or great-great-grandparents were here legally. What does that even mean?"

Overall, 54 percent in the poll said immigration is an important issue to them personally, a figure that's remained steady over the past couple of years.

Republicans aren't the only group whose views have shifted significantly. In August of 2010, just 39 percent of seniors favored a path to citizenship. Now, 55 percent do. Among those without a college degree, support has increased from 45 percent to 57 percent.

And 59 percent of whites now favor a way for illegal immigrants to gain citizenship, up from 44 percent in August 2010, and 41 percent in September 2009.

Overall, the poll found 35 percent strongly favored allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens over time, while 27 percent favored the idea somewhat. Just 35 percent of Americans opposed the approach, with 23 percent strongly opposed and 12 percent somewhat opposed. That compared with 48 percent opposed in 2010 and 50 percent in 2009.

The poll also found strong support for Obama's decision, announced last summer, to shield as many as 800,000 immigrants from deportation with conditions. Those affected would have to be younger than 30, would have to have been brought to the U.S. before turning 16 and would have to fulfill certain other conditions including graduation from high school or serving in the military. Illegal immigrants covered by the order now can apply for work permits. The order bypassed Congress, which has not passed "DREAM Act" legislation to achieve some of the same goals for younger illegal immigrants.

Sixty-three percent of Americans favor that policy, while 20 percent oppose it and 17 percent are in between or unsure, the poll said. The policy is supported by 76 percent of Democrats, significantly more than among Republicans (48 percent) or independents (59 percent).

Cordel Welch, 41, of Los Angeles, was among those poll participants who believes illegal immigrants brought to the country as children should be treated differently from people who came here as adults.

"The ones that were brought here by their parents, they're already here, they're already established," Welch said in an interview. "The adults should go through the process."

Melissa Johnson, 40, of Porter, Texas, disagreed.

"I think there were generations of people that came over here legally, and just because your parents snuck you in or snuck in while pregnant with you doesn't give you automatic citizenship," she said. "I think they should send them all back home."

The Associated Press-GfK Poll was conducted Jan. 10-14, 2013, by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,004 adults nationwide. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points; the margin is larger for subgroups.


Online: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

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thepartyfirst wrote:
I do not believe anything the state run media tells us.
on January 22,2013 | 12:50PM
peanutgallery wrote:
LIberal ideology. Make up your own facts, and pretend like it's real. The sheep will follow.
on January 22,2013 | 05:13PM
MightyMakiki wrote:
60% Huh? I don't believe it. Enforce the laws established in 1986. period. 1 million amnesty the rest, go home.
on January 22,2013 | 12:58PM
kuewa wrote:
Although the borders cannot be wide open, it makes sense to provide some pathways, particularly for children of illegal immigrants who grew up in the US through no fault of their own. Virtually every reputable study has shown a net neutral or positive economic effect of both legal and illegal immigration. Even illegal immigants pay sales tax, support property tax, and in many cases contribute to social security and medicare even though they will never be eligible to collect from these systems. In addition, immigrants, legal and illegal, account for a large proportion of our net population growth, which is essential for economic growth. On the other hand, there needs to be stricter safeguards again undesirable immigrants, including criminals, drug traffickers, etc, which constitute a large proportion of the prison population.
on January 22,2013 | 01:16PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Net population growth is essential to economic growth?
on January 22,2013 | 10:35PM
TLehel wrote:
Funniest part of this article? The fact that politicians use immigration as an opportunity for votes from that demographic. Look at how broken our country is. It's all back alley cowardly balarky.
on January 22,2013 | 01:20PM
scooters wrote:
Really? You think!! These are part of Obama's 47% er's..Looking for that free ticket.
on January 22,2013 | 01:28PM
LanaAloha wrote:
We are all descending from immigrants in one form or another! Of course they should be allowed to stay with some proper checks and balances. I
on January 22,2013 | 01:36PM
Kawipoo wrote:
See comment below.
on January 22,2013 | 02:13PM
false wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on January 22,2013 | 01:39PM
Kawipoo wrote:
What about kids in other countries that want to have the same opportunities legally. We have laws lets enforce them. Liberals only follow laws when it agrees with their agenda.
on January 22,2013 | 02:12PM
Bdpapa wrote:
This sounds cruel but it is a reality of life.
on January 22,2013 | 02:29PM
peanutgallery wrote:
That doesn't matter to people like false. She exists with the myopic view that if it feels good to me, it must be right.
on January 22,2013 | 05:14PM
Kawipoo wrote:
The poll was actually done in Mexico. Since Mexico is in North America they called them Americans.
on January 22,2013 | 02:15PM
fairgame947 wrote:
All 12 million? If they take drug tests, show they have contributed tax wise to our economy have not been on welfare or food stamps then maybe a good idea. Adults sneak over the border, bear their children who are born as citizens. How about all those people in countries following the legal procedure and waiting until approval? Shouldn't they all be let in too? Seems only fair. This whole this is out of hand!
on January 22,2013 | 03:10PM
Loki wrote:
They're high!
on January 22,2013 | 06:50PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Wow ... a lot of far right comments. Why so anti-hispanic? Unless you're an indian, your family immigrated to the US too. If they have clean criminal record, I say let them stay and earn their citizenship thru work or serving in the military.
on January 22,2013 | 09:27PM
localguy wrote:
Sad to think some Latinos think they are special and jump to the head of the immigration line, making others wait even longer. An example, many Filipinos wait years to decades home in the Philippines to receive their immigration approval. They know if they make any mistake, their chance of immigration is gone. Yet illegal Latinos in the USA say they deserve "Special Favor" even though they are in the USA illegally. What part of "illegal immigrant" do they fail to understand. You want to be a US citizen, file your papers like others, wait like they do, and maybe you will make it. You do not deserve special favor, you do not deserve to jump to the head of the line. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.
on January 22,2013 | 09:38PM
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