A new poll out from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution confirms that the vast majority of Americans want unauthorized immigrants living here to secure legal status–and most Americans, including a majority of Republicans, favor offering a path for those immigrants to earn citizenship. But there are divisions among the respondents, with those who identify with the Tea Party less likely than others to support legalization that grants citizenship. A large share of Tea Party respondents, 37 percent favor deportation of all unauthorized immigrants, but an equal percentage favor a path to citizenship and another 23 percent favor legalization but no right for those in the country illegally to ever become U.S. citizens.
These polling numbers are consistent with virtually every major poll taken over the last year–and the numbers remain steady. Perhaps this explains why illegal immigration has not become the hot-button issue in this election cycle that it has been over the last several national elections. As the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, anti-immigration groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which opposes most legal immigration to the U.S., have gained little traction for pushing this issue in primaries. In several states, including South Carolina where Republican Lindsay Graham faces opposition from an anti-immigrant challenger, being in favor of immigration reform didn’t hurt incumbents.