In the Spring 2013 Pack Poll, which surveyed over 900 students, immigration was one of the issues we asked about. Our main findings are that N.C. State students support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, as well as support passing the DREAM Act. Slight changes to the question wording in several split-ballot experiments we conducted had minor effects, suggesting the support for these policies is strongly held.
A Path to Citizenship
A path to citizenship has been a key component in the nation’s immigration debate. Immigrants who arrived to the U.S. illegally would have a chance to become citizens after paying a fine, proving gainful employment, evidence of taxes paid, and becoming proficient in English.
Respondents were asked, “Overall, do you favor or oppose providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants?” A large majority of students (70%) said they support a path, with just 30% opposed to it.
The Pack Poll asked some students a slightly different version of this question about citizenship. In this alternative version, respondents were asked, “Overall, do you favor or oppose a path to legal status, but not citizenship, for illegal immigrants?” Although the results were similar, slightly fewer were in favor legal status without citizenship. Of the respondents that answered this question, 66% favored and 34% opposed. This finding suggests a small percentage of students do not support reforms short of full citizenship, although the small difference in preferences could also be the result of sampling error.
The DREAM Act
Similar numbers correspond to students’ take on the DREAM Act. Following prior language of the legislation, we asked a random subset of students if they supported or opposed the Act, “which would allow children of undocumented immigrants who have grown up in America to attain legal residency status if they complete college.” In this version, 79% of students expressed support for the Act. Another subset of students were asked a slightly different version of the question that now included a military component. They were asked, “Do you support or oppose the ‘DREAM Act,’ which would allow children of undocumented immigrants who have grown up in America to attain legal residency status if they complete college or serve in the U.S. military?” The added military requirement was associated with an increase in support, up to 85%.
Clear Partisan Divide on Immigration Issue
Partisan division on the national level about immigration policies is also reflected among the N.C. State student population. Perhaps unsurprisingly, N.C. State students that identified themselves as Democrats were more favorable about providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants than those who called themselves Republicans.
Overall, do you favor or oppose providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants?
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In response to “Do you favor or oppose providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants?” With Republicans, there is deep division: 47.7% of Republicans said they support the path while 52.3% said they opposed it. As for Democrats, the majority, 89.5%, support the path, with just 10.5% opposed to it.
Among the group of respondents that were asked, “Overall, do you favor or oppose a path to legal status, but not citizenship, for illegal immigrants?” the effect of question wording proved to make a difference in partisan attitudes, albeit minor. Republican support went up three percentage points. The change among Democratic attitudes was slightly more significant, with support down by 12 percentage points.
Overall, do you favor or oppose a path to legal status, but not citizenship, for illegal immigrants?
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While the difference in response attitudes to both questions were not stark, there was nevertheless a distinction – the more noticeable one being self-identified Democrats tended to be less supportive of an immigration policy that did not encompass full citizenship. The second alternative to the “split-ballot” question noted “legal status” could be the obtained via the path, but still student Democrats are not satisfied if full citizenship for immigrants is not a component.