NYTimes: New polls show support for Obama’s handling of immigration

Following President Obama’s campaign-style blitz last week to unveil his proposals for immigration overhaul, the public’s rating of his handling of the issue appears to be on the rise, with several of his proposals enjoying broad support. The president’s approval rating for his handling of immigration is up 11 points from six months ago and stands at 49 percent, with 43 percent disapproving, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll. It is Mr. Obama’s highest rating on the issue since his first 100 days in office.

The ABC/Post poll found that a majority of Americans supported both the so-called path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the United States and tightened security at United States borders. A recent Gallup poll asked the same questions with different wording and came back with somewhat different results.

On the issue of undocumented immigrants eventually becoming citizens, Gallup explained the proposal as allowing “undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. the chance to become legal residents or citizens if they meet certain requirements,” while the ABC/Post survey simply used the phrase “path to citizenship.”

Gallup found nearly three-quarters of Americans (including 9 in 10 Democrats and 6 in 10 Republicans) supported extending citizenship to undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, while 55 percent of the public (including about 7 in 10 Democrats and 4 in 10 Republicans) favored the concept in the ABC/Post survey.

Likewise, on the issue of border control, both polls showed majorities supporting increased security measures along United States borders. Yet, whereas the ABC/Post poll asked about “stricter border control to try to reduce illegal immigration” and found more than 8 in 10 supporting it, Gallup asked about an “increase in government spending” on security and enforcement at the borders and found two-thirds supporting it. Not surprisingly, the public was less supportive when they realized stricter enforcement would require increased financing.

Regardless of question wording, majorities across party lines support increased border security, and both surveys found Republicans more fervent in their support than Democrats.

Gallup also tested several other proposals including an employer verification system confirming that all workers are in the United States legally, a system tracking the departures of foreigners, and an increase in the number of visas for legal immigrants with advanced skills. All of the measures were supported by wide bipartisan majorities.

The Gallup survey was conducted Jan. 30 and 31 and the ABC/Post survey Jan. 30 to Feb. 3. Both polls have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points and are based on nationwide telephone interviews on land lines and cellphones.

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