Republican primary voters are more disposed to supporting comprehensive immigration reform than opposition among some conservatives might suggest, according to a poll commissioned for a right-of-center, pro-immigration group.
The nationwide survey, conducted Monday for Americans for a Conservative Direction, revealed the following on the controversial concept of immediately legalizing millions of illegal immigrants and providing them with a path to full citizenship:
"A solid 65% majority of Republicans support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants if it is coupled with substantially increased border security. An additional 8% support a pathway to citizenship even without increased border security, bringing to 73% the total of GOP primary voters who are open to the concept. A 21% minority of primary voters oppose citizenship under all circumstances."
The poll of 1,000 respondents "who have a history of voting in Republican primary elections" was administered through live telephone interviews and weighted for an accurate geographic distribution of the national GOP primary electorate, according to the survey memorandum prepared by the Republican polling firm, Basswood Research, and its principle pollster.
Lerner often conducts surveys for the Club for Growth. This poll had an error margin of 3.1 percentage points. Following is a copy of the complete polling memo:
NATIONAL REPUBLICAN PRIMARY POLL ON IMMIGRATION ISSUES
— Republican primary voters overwhelmingly want the current broken immigration system fixed, not ignored.
A large 79% majority say it is "very important" to fix the current immigration system. Another 17% say it is "somewhat important" to do so, bringing to a near unanimous 96% of Republicans who want the issue dealt with. Just 4% say fixing the immigration system is "not very important" or "not at all important."
— Republican primary voters prefer an imperfect immigration solution to no solution.
When given a choice between leaving the current immigration system the way it is, and "passing new laws that are not perfect, but do attempt to fix the serious flaws in the current system," Republicans choose imperfect solutions over the status quo by a massive 78%-14% margin. This includes 75% of primary voters who consider themselves supporters of the Tea Party movement, and 78% of primary voters who are daily Fox News watchers.
— Republican primary voters broadly support the substance of the comprehensive immigration reform bills presently under consideration.
By 70%-22%, Republicans support a described proposal that: 1) increases border security; 2) requires employers to verify the legal status of job seekers; and 3) establishes a pathway to U.S. citizenship for the eleven million illegal immigrants presently in the country, as long as they pass a criminal background check, pay a fine and back taxes, learn English, and wait at least thirteen years.
— Most Republican primary voters support a pathway to citizenship under some conditions.
A solid 65% majority of Republicans support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants if it is coupled with substantially increased border security. An additional 8% support a pathway to citizenship even without increased border security, bringing to 73% the total of GOP primary voters who are open to the concept. A 21% minority of primary voters oppose citizenship under all circumstances.
— Republican primary voters are concerned that promised border security will not actually happen; but those concerns can be addressed.
Eighty-nine percent of Republicans say they are "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" that immigration reform will fail to actually secure the border. However, large majorities express greater confidence that the border will be secured when they are presented with several policy options that are under consideration, including robust increases in border personnel and equipment (75%), and homeland security certification (68%).
— Republican primary voters support increasing legal immigration.
By 71%-25%, Republicans support increasing the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country who have advanced skills in engineering, math, science, and technology. By 56%-39%, Republicans also support increasing the number of legal immigrants who come here as guest workers filling lower skill job openings in industries like agriculture and construction.
Contrary to some perceptions, it is clear that Republican Members of Congress who support comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship, do not run afoul of the majority opinion of their primary voters. That is true in every region of the country, and in suburban and rural districts alike. It is true with Tea Party voters, social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and moderate Republicans alike as well.
There are around 20% of GOP primary voters who oppose most forms of immigration reform. This minority tends to be vocal, but their level of activism should not be confused with the size of their numbers. The large majority of primary voters see a badly broken immigration system and want it fixed.
Most Republicans are willing to support a pathway to U.S. citizenship, provided that several conditions are met, including criminal background checks, learning English, paying fines, and waiting a period of years.
Of primary concern to Republicans is securing the border to prevent future illegal immigration. There is understandable skepticism that neither Congress nor the Obama Administration can be relied on to actually enforce real border security. If provisions are put in place to satisfy these concerns, then a large majority of Republican primary voters will support comprehensive reform.