Even Before President Obama’s Announcement Last Week, Immigration was Increasingly on Americans’ Minds

NEW YORK , N.Y. – November 25, 2014 – President Obama set off no small amount of controversy last week when he announced sweeping executive actions on immigration policy. While conservatives have decried the actions as overstepping presidential authority, the president has responded with the simple and open challenge for Congress to pass a bill. But several days before President Obama even hinted at his intent, immigration was already among the issues Americans saw as most important for the government to address, with 24% of U.S. adults naming it – without prompt – as a top issue for action. This represents considerable growth from the 17% saying the same in June and a threefold increase from the 8% prioritizing immigration last December.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,276 U.S. adults surveyed online between November 12 and 17, 2014 (President Obama announced his executive actions on November 20).

Immigration isn’t the only issue on Americans’ minds. It falls just behind healthcare (including mentions of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare – 26%, up from 22% in June) and the economy (25%, down slightly from 27%), and just ahead of employment/jobs (20%, down from 23% in June).

Further down the list, 9% of Americans mention the budget deficit or national debt, 7% point to education, and 6% each name the environment and terrorism. Meanwhile, 5% each name budget/government spending, taxes and issues related to the income gap/wealth inequality in America.

Priorities by party

There are some differences in how the top five issues rank depending on party affiliation (or lack thereof).

  • For Republicans, immigration is the top priority, followed by healthcare. The economy comes in third, followed by employment/jobs in fourth and the budget deficit/national debt closing out the top five priorities.
  • Healthcare comes in first among Democrats, with the economy ranking second. Employment/jobs come in third, immigration fourth and the environment and education tie for the fifth position.
  • For Independents, the economy and immigration tie for first priority, followed by healthcare. Employment/jobs comes in third, followed by the budget deficit/national debt in fourth. The environment rounds out Independents’ top five.

Expectations for Republican controlled Congress

Setting aside which issues Americans think the government should prioritise – which ones do they think will fare well and poorly under a Republican congress? The highest percentages of Americans indicate Republican control of congress will be a good thing for the U.S. economy (44%, vs. 39% who think it will be bad and 17% who think it will make no difference), for employment/jobs (42% vs. 37% and 21%, respectively), and for education (39% vs. 36% and 24%, respectively).

Americans are most likely to think the new congressional order will be a bad thing for income inequality (48%, vs. 26% who think it will be a good thing and 25% who think it will make no difference), political corruption (43% vs. 25% and 32%, respectively), congressional gridlock (42% vs. 37% and 21%, respectively) and race relations (41% vs. 27% and 32%, respectively).

 

TABLE 1

MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE – TREND

What do you think are the two most important issues for the government to address?

Top Spontaneous, unprompted replies

Base: All adults

’97

’98

’99

’00

’01

’02

’03

’04

’05

’06

’07

’08

’09

’10

’11

’12

’13

’13

’13

’14

’14

’14

May

Jan

Feb

Aug

Dec

Dec

June

Oct

Aug

June

Oct

Oct

Mar

Jan

May

Mar

Mar

Sept

Dec

Mar

June

Nov

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Healthcare (not Medicare) including Obamacare/ACA

10

11

12

15

5

10

14

18

11

12

25

22

25

45

18

21

23

33

42

29

22

26

The economy (non-specific)

8

9

7

5

32

34

25

28

19

14

13

64

50

32

29

30

27

26

24

25

27

25

Immigration

2

1

 

1

1

1

2

2

3

20

12

3

4

5

10

5

9

8

8

9

17

24

Employment/jobs

5

3

4

4

7

8

8

10

3

7

5

5

21

31

33

36

26

27

27

29

23

20

Budget deficit/National debt

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

3

X

17

11

16

12

16

13

11

9

Education

15

14

21

25

12

11

13

7

8

7

6

6

5

5

7

7

6

6

8

6

9

7

Environment

3

2

3

3

1

3

2

1

3

3

3

2

3

3

2

2

3

2

2

4

4

6

Terrorism

X

X

X

X

22

17

11

7

7

4

4

3

4

6

4

1

1

1

1

1

2

6

Budget/Government spending

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

5

6

2

6

7

9

7

20

10

14

9

7

5

Taxes

14

16

12

13

6

5

11

8

5

4

3

6

4

4

4

7

9

5

6

8

6

5

Income gap/Wealth distribution/Middle class

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

1

 

1

2

4

4

4

5

(Programs for) the poor/ poverty

3

2

2

3

1

2

3

 

4

4

4

 

1

2

2

1

2

4

3

3

3

4

Wars/Armed conflicts

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

6

4

3

5

2

3

3

3

Social security

6

6

24

16

3

2

4

4

10

5

3

3

1

1

3

3

3

4

3

2

3

3

National security

X

X

2

2

6

3

6

5

2

2

2

5

2

4

1

1

2

1

 

1

2

3

ISIS/ISIL

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

3

Foreign policy (non-specific)

3

5

4

3

2

4

2

3

2

2

4

2

3

2

1

2

2

3

2

4

3

2

Human/civil/women’s rights

2

1

 

1

1

1

 

1

1

1

2

 

 

1

1

2

1

2

1

2

2

2

Bipartisanship

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

1

1

2

2

3

2

1

2

Homeland/domestic security/public safety

X

X

X

X

8

9

3

6

2

2

2

1

2

1

1

1

X

2

2

2

1

2

Military/defense

2

2

2

4

4

1

5

3

1

4

2

2

2

1

1

2

1

2

1

2

2

1

Ebola

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

1

LGBT/Same sex rights

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

1

1

2

 

 

1

1

 

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Welfare

14

8

4

2

1

1

3

 

3

1

2

 

 

 

 

1

1

1

1

2

1

1

Infrastructure

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

1

 

1

1

1

2

1

1

Energy/Energy Issues

X

X

X

X

X

X

1

1

4

4

1

4

3

1

2

3

1

1

1

1

2

1

Downsizing government

X

X

X

1

 

X

X

1

 

1

1

 

1

2

1

2

1

1

 

1

2

1

Medicare

4

5

5

6

1

1

4

3

2

1

3

2

 

 

2

1

1

1

1

 

1

1

Other

8

19

2

19

3

8

8

8

1

6

5

15

5

1

3

8

8

8

8

6

7

3

Not sure/refused/no issue

9

12

16

18

11

10

12

9

8

6

8

4

4

2

4

2

2

3

2

4

6

4

= Less than 0.5%, X = Not mentioned as specific issue; Note: Prior to March, 2009, this question was asked via telephone

 

 

TABLE 2

TOP 5 MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE – By Political Party

Base: All adults

Rank

Republicans

Democrats

Independents

1st

Immigration

Healthcare (not Medicare) including Obamacare/ACA

The economy (non-specific) + Immigration (TIE)

2nd

Healthcare (not Medicare) including Obamacare/ACA

The economy (non-specific)

Healthcare (not Medicare) including Obamacare/ACA

3rd

The economy (non-specific)

Employment/Jobs

Employment/Jobs

4th

Employment/Jobs

Immigration

Budget deficit/National debt

5th

Budget deficit/National debt

Environment + Education (TIE)

Environment

 

 

TABLE 3a

REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL CONTROL WILL BE GOOD/BAD FOR…

Summary Grid

As you may or may not know, in the recent elections the Republican Party gained control of the Senate and retained control of the House of Representatives, giving them a majority in both houses of Congress. Do you think this will be good, bad or make no difference for each of the following issues?

Base: All adults

 

 

Very/Somewhat good

Very good

Somewhat good

Very/Somewhat bad

Somewhat bad

Very bad

It will make no difference

U.S. economy

%

44

19

25

39

21

18

17

Employment/Jobs

%

42

18

24

37

20

17

21

The state of the country in general

%

41

17

24

40

21

19

18

Education

%

39

14

26

36

20

16

24

Immigration

%

39

18

21

43

20

23

18

Congressional gridlock

%

37

16

22

42

16

26

21

Crime

%

37

12

25

27

15

12

36

Conflicts in the Middle East

%

37

14

22

37

20

17

27

Conflicts in Eastern Europe

%

35

13

23

33

19

14

32

Race relations

%

27

9

18

41

21

20

32

Income inequality

%

26

9

17

48

19

29

25

Political corruption

%

25

9

16

43

19

24

32

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

 

TABLE 3b

REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL CONTROL WILL BE GOOD FOR…

As you may or may not know, in the recent elections the Republican Party gained control of the Senate and retained control of the House of Representatives, giving them a majority in both houses of Congress. Do you think this will be good, bad or make no difference for each of the following issues?

Base: All adults

 

Total

Political Party

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

%

%

%

%

U.S. economy

44

77

26

42

Employment/Jobs

42

74

24

40

The state of the country in general

41

75

21

42

Education

39

65

26

36

Immigration

39

71

19

38

Congressional gridlock

37

68

20

35

Crime

37

57

25

38

Conflicts in the Middle East

37

66

20

36

Conflicts in Eastern Europe

35

62

21

36

Race relations

27

48

17

24

Income inequality

26

50

13

25

Political corruption

25

49

14

22

 

 

TABLE 3c

REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL CONTROL WILL BE BAD FOR…

As you may or may not know, in the recent elections the Republican Party gained control of the Senate and retained control of the House of Representatives, giving them a majority in both houses of Congress. Do you think this will be good, bad or make no difference for each of the following issues?

Base: All adults

 

Total

Political Party

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

%

%

%

%

Income inequality

48

19

73

45

Immigration

43

18

66

40

Political corruption

43

16

66

40

Congressional gridlock

42

18

63

39

Race relations

41

15

61

40

The state of the country in general

40

14

65

35

U.S. economy

39

14

61

35

Employment/Jobs

37

13

59

32

Conflicts in the Middle East

37

11

56

35

Education

36

13

55

34

Conflicts in Eastern Europe

33

13

49

29

Crime

27

12

43

22

 

 

 

TABLE 3d

REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL CONTROL WILL MAKE NO DIFFERENCE FOR…

As you may or may not know, in the recent elections the Republican Party gained control of the Senate and retained control of the House of Representatives, giving them a majority in both houses of Congress. Do you think this will be good, bad or make no difference for each of the following issues?

Base: All adults

 

Total

Political Party

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

%

%

%

%

Crime

36

31

32

40

Race relations

32

36

22

36

Conflicts in Eastern Europe

32

25

30

35

Political corruption

32

35

21

39

Conflicts in the Middle East

27

23

24

29

Income inequality

25

32

14

30

Education

24

22

19

29

Congressional gridlock

21

14

17

27

Employment/Jobs

21

14

17

28

The state of the country in general

18

11

15

23

Immigration

18

12

15

22

U.S. economy

17

9

14

23

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between November 12 and 17, 2014 among 2,276 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, The Harris Poll 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 Poll 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 our 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 The Harris Poll.

 

The Harris Poll® #107, November 25, 2014

By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll