Young Republicans are much more likely to have favorable views of immigration
and to support a path to citizenship for immigrants in the United States
illegally than are older Republican voters, according to a survey
published on Tuesday by the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonpartisan research group.
The divide could mean trouble in the general election for either of the
two leading Republican candidates, Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz
of Texas, who have called for mass deportation of 11 million undocumented
In the survey, 63 percent of Republicans under 30 said they supported giving
those immigrants a chance to become citizens if they met certain requirements.
Only 20 percent of young Republicans said they would identify and deport
them. By contrast, about a third — 34 percent — of Republicans
age 65 and over favored deportation, and less than half — 47 percent
— said they supported a pathway to citizenship for those immigrants.
A third option, allowing the immigrants to become permanent legal residents
but not citizens, was not supported by more than 15 percent of either group.
The institute’s survey is unusual because of the size and duration
of its sample. The report is based on 42,586 telephone interviews conducted
in English and Spanish from April 29, 2015, to Jan. 7, 2016. The margin
of error is plus or minus one point.
Mr. Trump’s pledges to expel illegal immigrants and to build a wall
along the border with Mexico consistently draw cheers at his rallies.
Mr. Cruz has followed Mr. Trump and hardened his position, saying he would
deport illegal immigrants and would not allow them to return.
In general, Republicans’ views of foreign newcomers are negative,
the survey suggests, with 53 percent saying that recent immigration “threatens
traditional American customs and values,” while only about a third
— 32 percent — say immigrants “strengthen American society.”
Among conservative Republicans, 58 percent think immigration is bad for
But 51 percent of young Republicans say immigrants make the country stronger.
Over all, three in 10 Republicans favor deporting illegal immigrants. According
to the survey, those voters are older, white and working class, with a
high school education or less; they say they are conservative, and many
are evangelical Christians. In short, they are the voters who have flocked
to support Mr. Trump in the Republican race, and who, in smaller numbers,
have also backed Mr. Cruz.
But even after months of the candidates’ scorching comments, a slim
majority — 52 percent — of all Republicans say they would
offer a path to citizenship for immigrants in the United States illegally,
a finding that remained “remarkably stable throughout 2015,”
according to the report.
“Many younger Republicans have grown up in a much more diverse world,”
said Robert P. Jones, the chief executive of the research institute. He
said the survey suggested that either Mr. Trump or Mr. Cruz would have
to soften their positions to mobilize young Republicans to vote in November.
“A really hard line on immigration has the potential not just to
fall flat but to push off younger Republicans,” Mr. Jones said.
Among Democrats, 72 percent back a path to citizenship, while 11 percent
support deportation, and 14 percent prefer allowing undocumented immigrants
to stay as legal residents without becoming citizens.
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