Most Republican voters are concerned that an immigration bill might not solve border security problems, but they're more confident when asked about legislation that would increase funding for staff and equipment there, according to a poll released on Wednesday by conservative pro-immigration reform group Americans for a Conservative Direction.
The nationwide poll, conducted July 8 by Basswood Research, was based on telephone interviews with 1,000 people who have voted in Republican primaries. It's one of many surveys that show that voters want to see Congress address immigration reform -- 79 percent called it "very important," while 17 percent said it was "somewhat important" -- and are open to a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, if it includes conditions.
The poll largely asked about hypothetical legislation, similar to the bipartisan "gang of eight" bill that passed the Senate by a vote of 68 to 32 last month. Comprehensive reform has backing from prominent conservatives such as former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), who serves on the board of Americans for a Conservative Direction. Now that the matter has moved to the Republican-controlled House, though, its fate is more uncertain, with members citing concerns from Republican voters about legalization and border security. Reform supporters are targeting House Republicans who might be persuaded, in hopes that leadership will feel pressure to bring up a comprehensive bill.
Most of the voters surveyed in this poll -- 70 percent -- said they are open to a bill that bolsters border security resources, requires employers to check on potential hires' legal status and allows undocumented immigrants eventually to gain citizenship. If border security is coupled with legalization, 65 percent of Republican voters said they would support a path to citizenship, according to the poll.
That's not to say they aren't skeptical. Eight-nine percent said they were concerned that immigration reform wouldn't enhance border security enough. But confidence went up when pollsters asked about specific policies, including increased border agents that would be deployed under the Senate-passed bill. If those increases were made, 75 percent said they were less concerned about improvements to border security, while 68 percent said they would be more confident if the Department of Homeland Security was required to verify those measures took place.
Conservative critics of comprehensive immigration reform have remained skeptical of polls that show Republican support, arguing that the questions place proposals in too positive a light.
The poll has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.