Most American voters think Arizona was right to pass its own immigration law, and think the Obama administration should wait and see how the new law works rather than try to stop it, according to a Fox News poll released Friday.
The new poll finds 61 percent of voters nationally think Arizona was right to take action instead of waiting for the federal government to do something on immigration. That's more than twice as many as the 27 percent who think securing the border is a federal responsibility and Arizona should have waited for Washington to act.
Most Republicans (77 percent) and independents (72 percent) support Arizona taking action. Democrats are divided: 43 percent think the state was right, while 41 percent think Arizona should have let the federal government take the lead.
Republican Gov. Jan Brewer said Arizona had to act because Washington has failed to stop the stream of illegal immigrants from Mexico. Demonstrators and others opposed to the new law have called on President Obama to stop it from being implemented. The president has said the law is "misguided," and called on the Justice Department to examine it.
Significantly more voters think the Obama administration should wait and see how the new law works (64 percent) than think the administration should try to stop it (15 percent).
To varying degrees, majorities of Democrats (52 percent), Republicans (77 percent) and independents (68 percent) think the White House should see how the law works.
The Arizona law makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally and requires immigrants to have proof of their immigration status. Police officers can ask for that proof of anyone they reasonably suspect is an illegal immigrant.
Nearly half of voters — 45 percent — say they don't know enough about the new law to offer an opinion on it. Thirty-four percent favor it, and 21 percent oppose it.
Who's responsible for illegal immigration? By a 60-17 percent margin, voters think the Mexican government is the one that deserves to be targeted by protests for creating the conditions that make so many of its citizens want to leave, instead of protesting the U.S. government for having tough immigration laws.
The national telephone poll was conducted for Fox News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from May 4 to May 5. For the total sample, the poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Stopping Illegal Immigration
Asked how to deal with illegal immigration, the poll shows large numbers favor using National Guard troops to help border patrol agents (79 percent), and imposing fines and criminal charges against employers who hire illegal aliens (79 percent).
Sixty percent favor using the U.S. military to stop illegal immigrants at the border. Support for using the military is up slightly from 55 percent in 2006, although it's down from a high of 79 percent in 2002,when memories of the 9/11 attacks were more top of mind.
Just over half of voters — 53 percent — favor building a wall or fence along the U.S.-Mexico border to stop illegal immigration.
The new poll finds the biggest concern about illegal immigration is the overburdening of government programs. Forty-four percent cite the strain on government services — far outdistancing all other concerns. About one in five (19 percent) says their biggest concern is illegal immigrants taking jobs away from U.S. citizens, while smaller numbers mention an increase in crime (6 percent) and terrorism (6 percent).
By a 7 percentage point margin, more voters say they think Republicans (42 percent) would do a better job than Democrats (35 percent) handling immigration issues. And by a much wider 20 point margin, voters think Republicans (48 percent) would do a better job than Democrats (28 percent) on border security.
The issue of immigration falls far behind other top issues on voters' minds. The economy remains the priority — in fact, the poll finds nearly 10 times as many voters cite the economy (47 percent) as immigration (5 percent) as being the most important issue facing the country today.