Judging by the results of a poll by ImmigrationWorksUSA, there are no easy answers to the issue of immigration for legislators or U.S. voters. According to the survey, a majority of voters think the United States needs an overhaul of the immigration system and policies.
Slightly more than half (52 percent) of respondents believe that immigration "hurts the United States" more than it helps, while 41 percent believe immigration benefits the country. But when the results are broken down by the respondents’ political bent, race, age, gender, employment and other demographic categories, clear divisions emerge:
- Republicans tend to believe immigration hurts the economy and Democrats tend to think it helps.
- White Americans are more likely to think it hurts the country, while Hispanics see a benefit and African-Americans are split on the issue.
- Older Americans, women, hourly workers and retirees and voters who didn't go to college believe immigration hurts the country, while younger voters, salaried men and voters with college degrees tend to see more benefit than cost from immigration.
- Only voters in the U.S. Pacific region are favorably inclined toward immigration; those in every other part of the nation see it as burdensome.
In all, 69 percent of the voters think the U.S. immigration system needs "major reform"; only 8 percent think the system "works fine." A vast majority (87 percent) want their elected representatives to work on immigration reform.
Looking specifically at legal and illegal immigrants -- Democrats were several times more likely than Republicans to feel favorable toward legal immigrants, and Republicans were several times more likely to feel unfavorable toward illegals.
"Predictably enough, voters have mixed feelings about immigrants and whether they help or hurt America. But overwhelming majorities all along the political spectrum want the country to move forward with reform," said Tamar Jacoby, ImmigrationWorks chief executive officer.
The poll included three focus groups, held in Dallas, Omaha and Nashville in April, and a survey of 800 likely voters nationwide in early May.