The Immigration Divide: Reform is a Potential Wedge Issue for Both Republicans and Democrats

Source Organization: Pew Research Center

04/12/2007 - With his renewed push for a comprehensive immigration bill, President Bush is advancing a potentially powerful political wedge issue, but one with an unlikely twist: Immigration fractures the president's own party at least as much as it divides the opposition.

Pew's major political values survey, released March 22, found substantial gaps within the two parties -- and between them -- over key elements of immigration policy and the impact of immigrants on the United States.

The public generally continues to favor a proposal to allow undocumented immigrants who have been in the United States for several years to gain legal working status and the possibility of future citizenship. About six-in-ten (59%) support this idea, about the same number as recorded in an April 2006 survey (58%). Most moderate and liberal Republicans (60%) favor the path to citizenship, but just 45% of conservative Republicans agree.

Democrats also differ over a proposed path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, though solid majorities of both liberal Democrats (76%) and conservative and moderate Democrats (62%) favor this approach.

Bush said the government's stepped up enforcement measures, including a new fence along the Mexican border, have cut down on the number of illegal immigrants entering the country. The border fence is more contentious among Republicans than Democrats: Fully 71% of conservative Republicans support construction of a 700-mile border fence, compared with 54% of moderate and liberal Republicans. By comparison, there is less of an ideological split among Democrats (61% of liberal Democrats oppose a border fence as do 54% of conservatives and moderates).

Read the full article Reform is a Potential Wedge Issue for Both Republicans and Democrats on the Pew Research Center Web site.

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