Polls show weak support for Obama’s immigration push

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

Two more polls released Thursday show continuing weak public support for President Barack Obama’s top-priority policy of increased immigration.

A Gallup survey showed the number of Americans who want increased immigration is only 25 percent. Another survey from Quinnipiac showed half of Americans opposing Obama’s immigration policies.

The Gallup survey of 4,373 adults also reported that 35 percent of Americans want reduced immigration, and 40 percent want immigration to stay level, said the poll, released July 11.

Quinnipiac’s poll showed public support for Obama’s immigration policy remains flat, at 41 percent approval and 50 percent opposition.

Only 35 percent of independents support his immigration policies, said the poll.

The Senate-passed immigration bill would roughly double annual immigration to add 46 million immigrants by 2033, and double the annual inflow of university-trained guest workers to more than 500,000 a year.

The inflow would lower average wages and education for a decade, but allow long-term increases in productivity, according to a June 16 report by the Congressional Budget Office. The bill would also shift more of national income from wage-earners to investors for at least 20 years, according to the CBO report.

The Senate approved the immigration bill 68 to 32 in late June.

But the House’s GOP leadership has adopted a go-slow approach, partly because opposition from the GOP’s base has partly canceled out demands by the GOP’s business allies for passage of the controversial bill.

One challenge in polling public opinion is that many Americans do not know the real levels of immigration or the increased immigration levels set by the Senate’s immigration rewrite.

A May poll by Rasmussen Reports showed widespread ignorance of current immigration levels.

One-in-eight Americans believe the inflow of immigrants is only 250,000 people per year, the poll said. The actual rate, based on current net migration rate of 3.64 per 1,000 population, comes to just over 1.1 million per year.

Fifty-six percent of adults believe fewer legal immigrants arrive than illegal immigrants, even though the inflow of illegal immigrants has dropped to almost zero since the housing crash of 2007.

Few media reports about the immigration debate cite numbers about current and project inflows.

To boost their case, business groups cite business-funded polls showing high support — up to 80 percent — for a staged amnesty that is coupled with a series of conditions, such as improved border security, payment of back taxes and use of English.

To win approval for the bill, business groups are funding ads that highlight increased border security, but do not mention the increased inflow of immigrants.

But Obama’s strong support for the bill may be shifting the numbers, at least among partisan Democrats.

Gallup’s new poll showed a steady rise in support for immigration, up from 14 percent when Obama and his deputies declared their support for additional immigration in 2009, to 25 percent in July. The rise was fueled by an increased among Democrats and white Americans, said the poll.

Democratic leaders have made a strategic decision to seek the support of the growing Latino demographic.

Since 2010, Democrats, led by Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, have embraced the immigrant Latino demographic, despite fears that it would cost support among other Americans.

Some of those costs are highlighted by the Quinnipiac poll, which shows that 55 percent of independents, 35 percent of Hispanics, and 18 percent of Democrats oppose the president’s immigration policy.

He’s got support from 75 percent of Democrats, 35 percent of independents, 77 percent of blacks, 62 percent of Hispanics.

Among people with college degrees, the president has 50 percent support and 44 percent disapproval. Among people without college degrees, he’s facing 38 percent approval and 53 percent disapproval.

The drop-off in support among lower-income voters is pushing efforts by GOP reformers to argue that the GOP’s support among whites and Hispanics would be boosted by a low-immigration, high-wage policy.

“If there is any lesson for the GOP to learn from 2012, it’s that we must do a better job fighting for and connecting with working Americans of all backgrounds — immigrant and native-born alike — whose wages have fallen and whose employment opportunities have increasingly diminished,” Sen. Jeff Sessions, said in a July 10 article in National Review.

“By doing the right thing on immigration, the GOP can distance our party from the corporate titans who believe the immigration policy for our entire country should be modeled to pad their bottom line,” he wrote.

Overall, Quinnipiac reported that Obama has 44 percent approval, and 48 disapproval, from its panel of 2,014 voters.

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