Poll: Americans trust Democrats on immigration, don’t know much about deportation

Nicole Lafond Contributor
Font Size:

Americans are more likely to trust the Democratic Party over the Republican Party on issues of immigration reform and illegal immigration, according to results of a poll by Public Religion Research Institute released Thursday.

But only three in every ten Americans know that deportation of illegal immigrants has increased during the Obama administration, and voters seem less concerned about the issue than are politicians.

Some 45 percent of Americans surveyed said the Republican Party’s position on immigration has actually hurt the party in recent elections, and 30 percent said they were more likely to trust the Republican Party to deal with illegal immigration issues, as opposed to 43 percent of voters putting their trust in the Democratic Party.

At a roundtable in Washington Thursday afternoon, survey executive and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution E.J. Dionne said he believes Republicans are aware of this issue and that the “biggest problem Republicans face on this issue is not exactly where their constituents stand, but the fact that they have a coalition management problem that the Democrats do not have.”

Deportation rates have increased under the administration of President Barack Obama, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. However, 42 percent of Americans think the number of deportations has stayed the same, and 18 percent said deportations had decreased.

The racial groups who indicated they held the greatest understanding of the increase of deportations under the Obama administration were Hispanics and Latinos.

“That’s logical because Hispanics are most likely to know somebody who is an undocumented immigrant. 63 percent of Hispanic voters have a family member or close personal friend who is an undocumented immigrant,” Melissa Michelson, survey release panelist and professor of political science at Menlo College, said Thursday.

Despite “widespread” knowledge of deportation, Michelson said seven out of 10 Latino voters voted for Obama last year. “The reality is known by Hispanics, but that is not driving the voting choice,” she said at the release.

Although great emphasis is placed on issues of immigration in Washington, the survey revealed a disconnect between the importance of the issue to politicians and the importance of the issue to Americans.

Voters said the issues of improving the job situation and reducing the budget deficit should be the highest priorities for politicians, and ranked immigration policy reform sixth out of seven current issues.

A large majority of Americans, 65 percent, agreed that immigrants coming to the United States usually take jobs that American citizens do not want. However the majority of Americans are also concerned with the impact illegal immigrants have on the economy, with 56 percent saying they hurt the economy by driving down wages.

Public Religion Research Institute conducted the survey, in partnership with the Brookings Institution. 4,465 American adults were surveyed and the margin of error was plus or minus 1.7 percent.

Follow Nicole on Twitter