Nationally, 60% Favor Letting Local Police Stop and Verify Immigration Status

Nationally, 60% Favor Letting Local Police Stop and Verify Immigration Status

Monday, April 26, 2010

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer last week signed a new law into effect that authorizes local police to stop and verify the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey finds that 60% of voters nationwide favor such a law, while 31% are opposed.

Seventy-seven percent (77%) of Republicans support the law along with 62% of voters not affiliated with either major party. Democratic voters are evenly divided on the measure.

At the same time, however, 58% of all voters are at least somewhat concerned that “efforts to identify and deport illegal immigrants will also end up violating the civil rights of some U.S. citizens.” That figure includes 29% who are Very Concerned about possible civil rights violations.

Voter support for empowering local police comes at a time when most voters (56%) believe it is unlikely Congress will take action to gain control of the border. Only 31% say Congress is even somewhat likely to take such an action. That figure includes just 10% who believe Congress is Very Likely to act.

President Obama has denounced the Arizona law, and he and other critics of the measure see it as an incentive to push new national immigration reform legislation to supersede it.

Not surprisingly, support for the law authorizing local police to arrest illegal immigrants is a bit higher in Arizona than it is nationwide. As one of the states most impacted by illegal immigration, 70% of voters statewide favor the new law.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it’s in the news, it’s in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

Brewer signed the new law in the midst of a tough Republican Primary campaign. She antagonized many Republicans early on by supporting a statewide tax increase. More recently, she has pleased many voters by finding a way for the state to sue the federal government over the new health care reform law. Eighty-three percent (83%) of Arizona voters say a candidate’s position on immigration is an important factor in how they will vote, including 51% who say it’s very important.

The measure is also having an impact on this year’s Arizona Senate race. Senator John McCain, who narrowly leads conservative challenger J.D. Hayworth in Arizona’s hotly contested GOP Senate Primary race, has come out strongly in support of the new law.

Democratic strategist Susan Estrich notes that “the federal government is supposed to secure the border. Its failure to do so effectively … invites measures like Arizona’s. … In the final analysis, the greatest threat to the rule of law is the lawlessness that leaves both desperate immigrants and desperate citizens vulnerable and afraid.”

This national telephone survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on April 22 and 23, 2010 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

The new survey results are consistent with findings conducted over many years. Three-out-of-four voters believe that the federal government is not doing enough to secure the nation’s borders. In fact, 56% believe that the policies of the federal government encourage illegal immigration. Among voters who are angry about immigration, 83% are angry at the federal government. Only 12% direct their anger at the immigrants

The biggest point of disconnect between voters and the conventional wisdom in Washington, D.C. has to do with priorities. Almost always in Washington, the debate begins with a focus on how to address the status of illegal immigrants. To voters, that is a secondary concern. Controlling the borders is the top concern. That hasn’t changes since the 2006 immigration legislation collapsed when the U.S. Senate surrendered to public opinion. During that debate, a New York Times/CBS poll found that 69% believed illegal immigrants should be prosecuted and deported.

Other surveys have found that 73% of voters want cops to check the immigration status of all offenders during traffic stops. Sixty-seven percent (67%) also say that if law enforcement officers know of places where immigrants gather to find work, they should sometimes conduct surprise raids to identify and deport those who are here illegally.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of voters nationwide say that those who knowingly hire illegal immigrants should be punished. By a 48% to 36% margin, voters say the same about landlords who rent to illegal immigrants. Additionally, 77% of voters nationwide oppose drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants. That topic tripped up Hillary Clinton in a debate during the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona, created a national controversy by aggressively enforcing national immigration laws. While his efforts prompted a U.S. Justice Department civil rights investigation, the sheriff remains popular in his home state. Most Arizona voters not only support his policies, but 58% say he has been good for the state’s image. On a personal basis, Arpaio is viewed favorably by 68% of Arizona voters.

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