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ASU poll: Immigration tops list of concerns

January 23, 2008

More than half (52 percent) of the residents in Arizona, Nevada, Texas and New Mexico say that illegal or unauthorized immigrants make up at least 25 percent of their states’ populations, according to a new ASU-Southwest Poll released Jan. 3.

Among Hispanics, 62 percent of those polled make that assessment, while 43 percent of seniors (ages 61 and older) say that unauthorized immigrants comprise 25 percent or more of their states’ populations.

The telephone poll, which was conducted Nov. 6 to Dec. 19 by ASU’s Institute for Social Science Research, asked more than 1,000 residents in the four Southwestern states their opinions on several timely issues, including immigration, the U.S. presidential race and quality of life in the Southwest.

On the subject of immigration, the poll sought to examine various aspects of the debate, and to find out how Southwest residents feel about different groups of immigrants and what they think should be done about current immigration policy.

The subject is familiar to most respondents; 75 percent say that they “personally knew someone who has immigrated to the United States.”
According to responses, the overall assessment of the impact of immigration is positive; 38 percent of respondents say that immigrants from other countries “helped their state more than they hurt it,” and another 34 percent say that immigrants “helped and hurt their state about the same amount.”

Looking at immigration policy at the national level, there is a clear preference for immigrants with education, job skills and work experience.

Fully 48 percent of respondents say that priority should be given to such immigrants, while 22 percent say that immigrants with family members already in the United States should be given priority.

These “highly skilled” immigrants are seen as having an overall positive impact on the U.S. economy, with 71 percent of the respondents agreeing that such immigrants “bring much-needed skills and expertise, and help fill labor shortages in knowledge industries.” On a related question, 64 percent of the respondents agree that highly skilled immigrants help maintain U.S. leadership in science and technology. A little more than one-third (35 percent) of the respondents agree with the statement that highly skilled immigrants take jobs away from American high-tech and professional workers, while nearly half (49 percent) agree with the statement that highly skilled immigrants return home and benefit the economies of their home countries, instead of the United States, after they acquire skills and education in the United States.

On the subject of undocumented immigrants, the outlook is somewhat different. Fully 58 percent of respondents say that undocumented immigration in the Southwest is a “very serious problem.” But this concern over the situation did not translate into a negative outlook toward the undocumented immigrants already in the United States.

In rating several proposals that would affect the undocumented immigrant population in the United States, the overall response – in most cases – is sympathetic, with significant majorities approving several proposals that would reward “good behavior.” For example, 83 percent of the respondents agree that undocumented immigrants who serve in the military should earn citizenship; 79 percent agree that children of undocumented immigrants who graduate from high school and are not involved in crime should become eligible for legal residency; 71 percent agree that undocumented immigrants who attend public colleges and universities should be able to pay in-state tuition rates if they grew up and graduated from a high school in the state; and 58 percent agree that children who are born in the United States, but whose parents are undocumented immigrants, should be considered U.S. citizens.

Among other poll results:

• About nine in 10 of those polled ages 31 and older consider undocumented immigration to be a serious problem in the Southwest; two-thirds say it’s a “very” serious problem. In contrast, seven in 10 young adults ages 18 to 30 consider the issue a serious problem, with 37 percent saying it’s a “very” serious problem.

• More than three-quarters (77 percent) of Hispanics say that undocumented immigration is a serious problem, compared to 89 percent of whites. However, whites are more apt than Hispanics to say the issue is a very serious problem, with two-thirds (66 percent) giving that answer; 38 percent of Hispanics consider it a very serious problem.

• More than a third (36 percent) of Southwestern women who are registered Republicans are undecided about whom they support for their party’s presidential nominee, compared to 11 percent of males. Rudy Giuliani leads among Republican men at 24 percent, and 13 percent of Republican women support him. Similarly, 12 percent of men support Fred Thompson; 5 percent of women say they would vote for Thompson in a primary or caucus.

• More than a third (36 percent) of Democratic women in the Southwest support Hillary Clinton, as do four in 10 Hispanics, while whites are evenly split between Clinton and Barack Obama (29 percent each). But large percentages of registered Democrats remain undecided; three in 10 Hispanics (30 percent) and 23 percent overall do not know for whom they will vote.

• Four in 10 young adults ages 18 to 30 (41 percent) and Hispanics (42 percent) in the Southwest are concerned about their monthly mortgage payments. In contrast, 18 percent of whites are concerned, as are 14 percent of seniors ages 61 and older.

• More than four in 10 Hispanics (43 percent) in the Southwest say Southwestern residents are less educated than individuals elsewhere in the nation. In contrast, 27 percent of whites gave that answer.

The ASU-Southwest Poll was conducted by telephone among a random sample of 1,013 adult residents in the Southwest United States (279 in Arizona, 103 in Nevada, 526 in Texas and 105 in New Mexico). The results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

It appears that ASU is the only university in the Southwest region conducting a formal regional public opinion poll. Sample questions were submitted by faculty researchers.

The polling questionnaire was compiled by the professional staff of experts at ASU’s Institute for Social Science Research in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The institute’s research facilities include a 17-station telephone interviewing facility with computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) capability and silent monitoring.

More information, including poll results, is available online at