WASHINGTON – A slim majority of Americans are open to allowing undocumented workers to obtain some sort of temporary legal status to remain in the United States, with stronger support for the idea among Democrats, younger adults and more educated Americans, a new poll finds.
Overall, 56 percent of Americans favor offering illegal immigrants a shot at some kind of legal status; roughly two-thirds of those ages 18-34 like the idea and an equal share of those with a college education agree, the AP-Ipsos survey found.
While Democrats were more likely to support temporary worker status, with 62 percent favoring the idea, even among Republicans there was majority support, by a narrower 52 percent, according to the poll.
The AP-Ipsos survey of 1,003 adults was conducted Tuesday through Thursday, as debate swirled in Congress over a proposal that would legalize many illegal immigrants in the United States and expand guest worker programs for an estimated 400,000 immigrants each year.
Two-thirds of Americans think illegal immigrants fill jobs that most Americans don't want, the poll found.
But the survey found greater ambiguity on whether illegal immigrants are good or bad for American society, on balance. Fifty-one percent said illegal immigrants mostly make a contribution to society, and 42 percent said they were mostly a drain.
Likewise, there was deep division on how serious a crime it should be enter the country illegally. Fifty-one percent thought it should be considered a "minor offense" and 47 percent considered it a "serious criminal offense."
Americans were skeptical that erecting a fence along the border with Mexico would reduce the number of illegal immigrants -- two-thirds doubted it would work.
The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.