Two-thirds of Americans Think Constitution Should Be Changed to Bar Maternity Tourism

NEW YORK , N.Y. – June 21, 2011 – Immigration has long been a hotly debated and divisive political issue. A recent Harris Poll sheds light on a new twist in the old debate-the question of maternity tourism, or birthing trips where pregnant foreigners travel to the U.S. to give birth, making any child born an automatic U.S. citizen.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,184 adults surveyed online between May 9 and 16, 2011.

The constitution is a sacred American document. Many political groups call on its words to support their policies and stances and other nations have copied it when establishing their own tenets. Thus, it seems predictable when asked if the Fourteenth Amentment, guaranteeing citizenship to any person born in the United States, is a good or bad law, two thirds of American adults (66%) say it’s a good law with 40% saying it’s very good and only a quarter (25%) call it a bad law. This approval is seen across all political groups and philosophies, although to varying degrees – Conservatives are least likely to call this a good law, as a small majority do (53%) while Liberals are most likely to call is a good law, with 84% saying so and fully 60% saying it is a very good law.

Despite this support for the Constitution, when the question is framed slightly differently and maternity tourism is explained, a different response is seen. When Americans were told that some pregnant foreigners arrange trips to the United States specifically timed so that they give birth during their stay, making any child born an automatic U.S. citizen, two thirds of U.S. adults say the Constitution should be changed to no longer allow for this (67%) with over two in five saying it definitely should be changed (45%). This perspective is shared across all political parties and philosophies:

  • Four in five Republicans (79%) say the Constitution should be changed to no longer allow for this, as do seven in ten Independents (70%) and 54% of Democrats;
  • Tea Party supporters feel most strongly about this as 81% say the Constitution should be changed here; and
  • Majorities of Conservatives (75%), Moderates (67%) and Liberals (52%) agree as well.

Following this re-look at the rights provided by the Fourteenth Amendment, when Americans were asked if they agree or disagree that it is appropriate that any baby born on U.S. soil is an automatic citizen of the United States only 36% say they agree it’s appropriate while 58% disagree with 35% strongly disagreeing.

Similar to the bi-partisan agreement seen with regard to changing the Constitution in this case, members of all political parties and philosophies also agree on several stipulations for automatic citizenship:

  • Republicans (84%), Democrats (63%), Independents (74%), Conservatives (84%), Moderates (72%), Liberals (53%), and Tea Party Supporters (85%) all agree that babies born in the U.S. should need an American citizen as their parent in order to become an automatic U.S. citizen;
  • Similar numbers of each of these groups (between 65% and 79% of all political groups, between 60% and 77% of all political philosophies and 80% of Tea Party supporters) also agree that babies born on American soil should need a parent who is a permanent resident of the U.S. in order to become an automatic citizen; and
  • While the agreement is less strong across all groups, 53% of U.S. adults also say that in order to limit these birthing trips the U.S. should screen for pregnancy before allowing foreigners into the country-two thirds of Republicans (64%), Conservatives (66%) and Tea Party Supporters (66%) say this and just about half of Democrats (48%), Independents (50%) and Moderates (52%) do yet in this case only 36% of Liberals agree.

So What?

This poll raises some interesting questions, yet the responses showing bi-partisan agreement across several issues and opinion statements is even more interesting. Although immigration has been a politically divisive topic, the issue of maternity tourism is slightly different – it is claimed that many foreigners participating in maternity tourism have no intention of permanently settling in the United States. Rather, they enter the U.S., obtain citizenship for their newborn baby, and then return (with the child) to their home country. While it’s unclear how widespread this practice is, this poll makes clear that Americans see it as an abuse of our system, which they would like to prevent. It will be interesting if legislators pursue this at all, or even if it can be determined how common the practice may be.

 

TABLE 1

FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT

On another subject, the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees American citizenship to any person born in the United States. Do you think this is a good law or a bad law?

Base: All adults

 

Total

Party ID

Tea Party Support

Political Philosophy

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Cons.

Mod.

Lib.

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Good (NET)

66

58

76

66

56

53

69

84

Very good

40

27

52

39

28

29

39

60

Somewhat good

27

31

23

27

28

24

30

23

Bad (NET)

27

38

18

25

40

41

24

12

Somewhat bad

17

22

12

14

23

21

17

8

Very bad

10

15

6

11

17

19

7

4

Not at all sure

6

4

6

9

4

7

7

4

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 2

PREGNANT FOREIGNERS AND BIRTHING TRIPS

Some pregnant foreigners arrange trips to the United States, specifically timed so that they give birth during their stay, making any child born an automatic U.S. citizen. Do you think the U.S. Constitution should be changed to no longer allow for this?

Base: All adults

 

Total

Party ID

Tea Party Support

Political Philosophy

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Cons.

Mod.

Lib.

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Should (NET)

67

79

54

70

81

75

67

52

Definitely should

45

62

31

44

63

60

39

33

Probably should

22

17

23

26

19

15

28

19

Should not (NET)

23

15

32

21

14

18

22

35

Probably should not

10

9

13

10

6

7

11

15

Definitely should not

13

7

19

11

8

11

11

20

Not at all sure

10

5

14

9

4

7

11

13

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 3A

AGREEMENT WITH STATEMENTS RELATED TO MATERNITY TOURISM

How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements related to maternity tourism, or these birthing trips?

Base: All adults

 

Agree (NET)

Strongly agree

Somewhat agree

Disagree (NET)

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree

Not at all sure

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Babies born in the U.S. should need an American citizen as their parent in order to become an automatic U.S. citizen.

72

53

20

22

9

13

6

Babies born on American soil should need a parent who is a permanent resident of the U.S. in order to become an automatic citizen.

72

48

23

22

10

11

7

In order to limit these birthing trips the U.S. should screen for pregnancy before allowing foreigners into the country.

53

30

23

37

16

22

9

It is appropriate that any baby born on U.S. soil is an automatic citizen of the U.S.

36

18

18

58

23

35

6

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 3B

AGREEMENT WITH STATEMENTS RELATED TO MATERNITY TOURISM

How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements related to maternity tourism, or these birthing trips?

Summary of those saying Strongly agree or Somewhat agree

Base: All adults

 

Total

Party ID

Tea Party Support

Political Philosophy

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Cons.

Mod.

Lib.

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Babies born in the U.S. should need an American citizen as their parent in order to become an automatic U.S. citizen.

72

84

63

74

85

84

72

53

Babies born on American soil should need a parent who is a permanent resident of the U.S. in order to become an automatic citizen.

72

79

65

75

80

77

73

60

In order to limit these birthing trips the U.S. should screen for pregnancy before allowing foreigners into the country.

53

64

48

50

66

65

52

36

It is appropriate that any baby born on U.S. soil is an automatic citizen of the U.S.

36

25

46

38

27

28

35

55

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between May 9 to 16, 2011 among 2,184 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

J40013

Q835, 840, 845

The Harris Poll® #74, June 21, 2011

By Samantha Braverman, Sr. Project Researcher