And a CNN/ORC International survey also indicates that more than six in ten say border security rather than a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants should be the bigger priority.
The poll’s Tuesday morning release comes as a bill backed by the bipartisan ‘Gang of Eight’ senators faces more legislative hurdles. The measure would offer a 13-year path to eventual citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the country. If the legislation passes through the Democratic Senate, it would face an uncertain future in the Republican dominated House of Representatives.
According to the poll, 51% say they support a bill that would attempt to increase border security and create a pathway to citizenship for many undocumented immigrants, with 45% saying they are opposed to such a measure.
“Support comes mostly from Democrats – six in ten favor the bill – with independents and Republicans split right down the middle,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “There is also a generation gap on this issue, with senior citizens opposed to the bill by a 17-point margin, while younger Americans tend to favor it.”
The poll’s release also comes as some GOP senators ready an amendment to the ‘Gang of Eight’ bill that they say would further bolster border security. Sixty-two percent of those questioned in the survey say that border security should be the main focus U.S. immigration policy, with 36% saying that creating an eventual path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants should be the top priority.
“Republicans and independents strongly support making border security the top concern, but even Democrats are split on this question,” adds Holland.
There’s also a generational divide, with those age 18-34 split on what’s most important, and large majorities of those age 35 and older saying border security should be the top priority when it comes to immigration policy.
President Barack Obama and Democrats want to fulfill a promise to Hispanic Americans, the nation’s fastest-growing demographic and a key voting bloc, to address the limbo of the 11 million immigrants living illegally in the country. If the bill becomes law, it would be one of the president’s major legislative achievements of his second term.
But the poll indicates a majority of Americans don’t give Obama a thumbs up on the issue. Only four in ten say the approve of the job he’s doing on illegal immigration, with 56% saying they disapprove of his performance on the issue. Those numbers are little changed in CNN polling dating back to 2009, the president’s first year in the White House.
The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International June 11-13, with 1,014 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey’s overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.