Hill Poll: Voters oppose deportations, but see border as vulnerable

A strong majority of voters oppose the deportation of people living in the United States illegally, but an equally large share of the electorate thinks that the nation’s borders are not as secure as they should be, according to the results of a new poll for The Hill.

The findings underline the complexity of an issue that has taken center-stage since President Obama and a bipartisan group of senators put forward separate proposals for comprehensive immigration reform last week.

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A decisive 64 percent of respondents in The Hill Poll said illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the country, with 47 percent supporting the additional step of creating a pathway to citizenship for the same people.

By contrast, only 27 percent of voters called for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants to be deported.

But exactly the same share of voters — 64 percent — asserted that the borders of the United States  are either “not very secure” or “not secure at all.” 

The latter finding could be a sign that the Senate’s plan might be the more popular, because it would make the citizenship benefits “contingent upon securing the border.” 

Obama, by contrast, is supportive of tougher border measures but doesn’t want to make the citizenship benefits dependent upon the security steps being taken first.

Party affiliation is a big factor underlying voters’ views on immigration, the survey found, with 62 percent of Democrats supporting a pathway to citizenship versus 32 percent of Republicans; and 39 percent of Republicans backing mandatory deportations, versus 16 percent of Democrats.

Overall, respondents graded Democrats and Republicans almost equally when it comes to “immigration and border security,” with 41 percent favoring Obama’s position and 39 percent preferring the GOP’s.

Another question amid the immigration debate is whether same-sex couples should receive the same consideration as heterosexual couples under an overhaul of the system. 

Behind Obama, Democrats are pushing for such equal treatment, which in practical terms would mean that non-citizen partners of Americans in same-sex unions would be entitled to a green card, just as is the case with heterosexual marriages. 

But Republicans aren’t on board with that proposal, and the Senate’s reform blueprint excludes that language as a result.

The Hill’s poll indicates that voters are split almost evenly on the issue, with 46 percent of respondents supportive of Obama’s position and 45 percent opposed to it.

On that issue, both party and gender appear to play a significant role, with 59 percent of Democrats — and 52 percent of women — supporting the extension of benefits to same-sex couples, while 64 percent of Republicans — and 54 percent of men — oppose the same provision.

The findings were based on a nationwide survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted on Jan. 31 by Pulse Opinion Research, an independent polling firm that borrows the automated procedures of Rasmussen Reports. 

The push for immigration reform has risen near the top of the congressional to-do list this year, largely as a result of November’s elections, which found Obama winning the support of Hispanic voters by a thumping margin of 71 percent to 27 percent over GOP contender Mitt Romney. Since then, GOP leaders have been seeking ways to attract more Hispanic voters to their side. A bipartisan reform bill, they hope, will do just that. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said this week that he’s hopeful Congress will send legislation to Obama’s desk this year.

“There’s a lot of desire on both sides to move a comprehensive immigration bill,” McConnell told Yahoo News.

Click here to view data from The Hill Poll.