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Fox News Poll: Secure the Border First

Breaking through the border fence

June 12: Mexicans are seen damaging the U.S. border fence, during a protest on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez. (Reuters)

A majority of American voters think the federal government should secure the country’s borders first, before Congress works on new immigration legislation.

The Obama administration wants comprehensive immigration overhaul to come first, while Republican leaders are pushing for improved border security as the top priority. A Fox News poll released Friday asked American voters what should happen first: 59 percent think the government should secure the border first, while 30 percent think the priority should be new legislation.

Large numbers of Republicans (72 percent) and independents (65 percent) support securing the border first. Views are fairly evenly split among Democrats, with a slim plurality putting border security (44 percent) before Congressional action (41 percent).

The national telephone poll was conducted for Fox News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from June 29 to June 30. For the total sample, the poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Some 19 percent of voters think the country’s borders are more secure today than they were five years ago, while 26 percent say they are less secure. Nearly half -- 47 percent -- say things haven’t changed in five years.

Just over half of voters -- 52 percent -- favor Arizona’s new immigration law. That’s almost twice as many as the 27 percent who oppose it. Another 21 percent have no opinion.

There’s a huge partisan divide on the new state law, which goes into effect at the end of July.

Fully 73 percent of Republicans support the law, 43 percentage points more than the 30 percent of Democrats who do. Among independents, a 57 percent majority favors the legislation.

Those living in the West (55 percent) and Midwest (54 percent) are a bit more likely to favor the law than those in the South (50 percent) and Northeast (49 percent).

Few voters, however, see immigration as the country’s top issue: Only 4 percent cite it as the most important issue for President Obama to be working on right now. That’s far fewer than the number who say the priority should be the economy/jobs (32 percent), the Gulf oil spill (14 percent), the deficit (12 percent), health care (6 percent), and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (6 percent).

Click here to see the raw data