Voters are torn over issues surrounding the immigration crisis on the southern border, where more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors from countries such as Guatemala and Honduras have illegally crossed into the United States since October.
A new Fox News poll shows opinions are almost evenly divided over everything from why so many Central American children are crossing the border now, to how to treat them once they are on U.S. soil, to whether the minors would be welcome in local communities.
In addition, since the crisis began, overall sentiment on immigration has shifted. The poll, released Thursday, finds the number of voters who want to deport all illegal immigrants stands at a record 24 percent. That’s up from 18 percent in May and a low of 15 percent in January.
Over half of voters (56 percent) disapprove of how President Obama is dealing with the border crisis. That includes majorities of Republicans (84 percent) and independents (59 percent), as well as whites (60 percent) and Hispanics (58 percent).
About a third approves of Obama’s handling of the crisis (31 percent). Democrats (52 percent) and blacks (59 percent) are some of the only groups to give majority approval.
Perhaps the most pressing question is what to do with the children. Forty-five percent of voters think the children should be treated as illegal immigrants and deported immediately. Yet almost as many -- 40 percent -- see them as refugees fleeing a humanitarian crisis and feel they should be allowed to stay in the U.S.
Majorities of Republicans (63 percent) and independents (52 percent) consider the children illegal immigrants who should be deported. A majority of Democrats (57 percent) sees them as refugees who should be allowed to stay.
Voters have mixed views over whether they would want the children living in a detention facility near them: 46 percent favor helping house them at a facility in their community, while 48 percent opposes doing so.
In addition, there’s a split over why the surge in illegal crossings is happening now. While 42 percent think it’s due to dangerous conditions in the countries the children are fleeing, the same number says it’s due to a belief that Obama will let them stay. Another 13 percent say “both.”
Democrats (61 percent) are most likely to blame the crossings on violent homeland conditions, while Republicans (61 percent) are more inclined to point to the president.
Views among Demographic Groups
Hispanic, black and younger voters are among the most sympathetic to the unaccompanied minors. For example, Hispanics (by 52-36 percent), blacks (53-30 percent) and voters under age 45 (52-37 percent) say the minors should be treated as refugees and allowed to stay. Whites (by 49-36 percent), those over age 45 (51-33 percent) and born-again Christians (57-28 percent) consider the children illegal immigrants who should be deported.
Those who are part of the Tea Party movement hold some of the toughest views toward the children crossing the border, as only 17 percent view them as refugees who should be allowed to stay in the U.S., and fewer than one in four favors helping to house them in their community (24 percent).
Hispanics (by 50-36 percent) and younger voters (50-32 percent) believe the children are escaping dangerous conditions at home. Whites (by 45-38 percent) and older voters (47-37 percent) think the border crossings are spurred by a belief Obama will let them stay.
Voters are more cynical about Democrats’ motivation for wanting to increase immigration than they are about Republicans’ reason for wanting to decrease it.
By a 22-point margin, more voters think the main reason some Democrats want to increase immigration is because the party believes Hispanic and Latino immigrants will vote for their candidates, rather than because they believe more immigration will help the U.S.
On the other side, by a 4-point margin, more think the main reason some Republicans want to decrease immigration is because the GOP believes Hispanic immigrants will vote for Democrats, rather than because they truly believe decreasing immigration will help the country.
On the overall immigration issue, 34 percent approve of Obama’s job performance, while 58 percent disapprove. That’s mostly unchanged from January when it was 36-54 percent.
Meanwhile, only nine percent of voters consider the Obama administration “very” competent in managing the border crisis, while another 30 percent says “somewhat” competent. Some 56 percent think the administration has been incompetent in managing the situation.
That puts government competency on the border crisis at the bottom of the list -- even below mismanagement of medical care to veterans and the botched rollout of Obamacare.
The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 1,057 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from July 20-22, 2014. The full poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. The poll includes additional interviews (an oversample) of randomly selected Hispanics to allow analysis of the subgroup.