Majorities of American voters think President Barack Obama exceeded his authority with recent executive actions on immigration -- and are worried he may be permanently altering the system of checks and balances established by the Constitution.
That’s according to a new Fox News poll released Wednesday.
By an 8-point margin, more voters disapprove (51 percent) than approve (43 percent) of the specific policy changes Obama made that will, among other things, allow millions of illegal immigrants to remain temporarily in the United States to work.
Meanwhile, nearly three quarters think this easing of immigration laws will encourage more people to enter the country illegally (74 percent). That includes 50 percent who believe Obama’s actions are “very likely” to result in more people illegally entering the U.S.
Even more voters are unhappy with how Obama made these changes. By a 60-38 percent margin, voters disapprove of the president bypassing Congress to change how the government deals with illegal immigration.
In addition, a 54-percent majority thinks Obama “exceeded his authority” under the Constitution by making the immigration changes unilaterally. Thirty-eight percent say he “acted within his authority.”
The poll goes on to ask what such actions mean for the country in the long term and finds more than two-thirds -- 68 percent of voters -- are concerned Obama’s use of executive orders and unilateral actions may be “permanently altering” our country’s system of checks and balances. That includes 42 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of independents and 93 percent of Republicans.
Hispanic voters -- who are almost twice as likely as white voters to approve of the recent changes Obama made on immigration (66 percent vs. 34 percent) -- like how the president went about making the changes as well. Fifty-six percent of Hispanics approve of Obama bypassing Congress compared to 29 percent of whites. Even so, views among Hispanics are about evenly divided over Obama’s authority under the Constitution: 48 percent say he acted within his authority, while 44 percent say he exceeded it. By two-to-one white voters say Obama exceeded his authority under the Constitution (62 percent-31 percent).
In general, a 63-percent majority wants the government to allow illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. and eventually qualify for citizenship after meeting certain requirements. Some 16 percent favor a guest-worker program, while 17 percent say deport all illegal immigrants. Despite the president’s recent actions and the reactions they have sparked, these sentiments are mostly unchanged since 2011.
While Hispanic voters (77 percent) are more likely than white voters (59 percent) to think the government should allow illegal immigrants to stay in the country, majorities of both groups favor that option.
Many lawmakers and commentators questioned the timing of Obama’s actions on immigration -- especially given the thumping his party received during the midterms. And voters certainly don’t think immigration should be at the top of the president’s to-do list.
The economy is the priority at 38 percent, followed by terrorism from groups like ISIS at 21 percent. Next on the list is health care at 12 percent, immigration comes in fourth for voters at 10 percent and race relations follows at 9 percent.
Those voters saying immigration should be the president’s top priority are split on the changes Obama made: 48 percent approve and 48 percent disapprove.
Thirty-six percent of voters approve of the job Obama is doing on immigration, while 60 percent disapprove. Obama’s record-high approval on immigration was 47 percent in February 2013, around the time he was proposing a comprehensive immigration reform plan.
Hispanic voters (55 percent) are twice as likely as white voters (27 percent) to approve of Obama’s job performance on immigration.
Obama’s overall job rating held steady this week: 42 percent of voters approve and 53 percent disapprove. Just before the midterms it was 41 approve - 54 disapprove.
The average for Obama’s ratings since becoming president is now split: 46 approve - 46 disapprove.
The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 1,043 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from December 7-9, 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.