Iowa Poll: Strong majority support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants
The latest Iowa Poll reveals most Iowans favor finding a pathway to citizenship for both undocumented immigrants and DACA recipients.
Copyright Des Moines Register & Tribune Co. 2018
Iowans overwhelmingly support citizenship for undocumented immigrants — and not just the so-called Dreamers.
Sixty-five percent of respondents in the latest Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll call a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented workers currently living in the country “a worthy goal.”
The consensus is stronger when it comes to young people brought to the country illegally by their parents. Eighty-one percent of Iowans say eventually extending citizenship to “Dreamers” — the group until recently protected by the executive action known as DACA — is a worthy goal.
Poll respondent Robert Gourley, a truck driver from Sioux City, is among those who favor a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented workers.
“They’ve been here and they do a lot for this country,” the 53-year-old political independent said. “They’re taking the crappy jobs that a lot of us Americans either don’t want or don’t want to do for the low rate of pay that they get for doing them.”
The poll, conducted by Selzer and Co. of Des Moines, questioned 801 Iowa adults Jan. 28-31 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
The results come as Congress and President Donald Trump scramble to work out a deal granting legal status to Dreamers. They must do so before March 5, a deadline imposed by Trump’s move last year ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which was instituted by President Barack Obama and protected those young people for several years.
Congressman David Young said he doesn't want to see DREAMers deported during a town hall meeting at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.
Both of Iowa’s U.S. senators, 3rd District U.S. Rep. David Young and Trump have indicated support for permanent legal status and potentially a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients — so long as it’s paired with increased border security and new limits on legal immigration. U.S. Rep. Rod Blum has taken a similar view, while U.S. Rep. Steve King opposes legal status for DACA recipients.
U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, the lone Democrat in the Iowa delegation, has said he favors extending DACA's protections in a package that also "enforces the rule of law, secures our borders and ensures accountability."
Support for legal status up to and including citizenship for DACA recipients is broad and deep in Iowa, regardless of the state’s typical political and cultural divides.
Ninety-three percent of Democrats, 80 percent of independents and 74 percent of Republicans believe citizenship is a worthwhile objective for DACA recipients. So do 86 percent of city dwellers and 73 percent of rural residents. Likewise do 83 percent of Iowans under age 35 and 84 percent of Iowans over 65.
It’s even strong among Iowans who say they’ll vote to re-elect Trump in 2020: 64 percent believe a pathway to citizenship is a worthy goal for people previously covered by DACA.
That includes Republican Tonya Goeser, 46, of Harlan, who says she’ll definitely vote for Trump and definitely supports citizenship for the undocumented.
“If you want to be here and you’re willing to pay the taxes, be a good citizen, there’s no problem,” she said.
Iowans’ consensus on the question of status for DACA recipients exceeds national public opinion. A poll conducted last month by the Pew Research Center showed 74 percent of U.S. adults back permanent legal status — not necessarily citizenship — for immigrants who entered the country illegally as children.
Although minority populations are growing in Iowa and a handful of communities have near-majority Latino populations, the state remains overwhelmingly white. Ninety-one percent of residents identify as white, according to U.S. Census data; 5.6 percent are Hispanic or Latino.
Support for a pathway to citizenship is softer but still robust when it comes to all undocumented workers — including those who chose on their own to enter the country illegally.
The 65-to-26 percent majority favoring a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented workers marks a sharp increase from the last time the Iowa Poll tested the question. In June 2013, 54 percent of Iowans called the opportunity for citizenship a worthy goal, compared to 38 percent who said it wasn’t.
Among all the demographic distinctions picked up by this year’s poll, just one showed less than majority support for a pathway to citizenship: committed Trump 2020 voters, of whom just 41 percent support citizenship for the undocumented against 51 percent who oppose it.
“No, I absolutely am not, no, no, no,” poll respondent Mary Peverill, 62, said when asked if she backed citizenship for undocumented people.
But Peverill, a Republican and a retiree from Waterloo reached this week while snow-birding in Texas, clarified that she wasn’t necessarily against some kind of legal status — particularly for immigrants who have joined the military or provided some kind of service to the United States.
“If they’re not here legally, they need to do the steps to make themselves legal,” she said.
Support runs strong even in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, where incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve King has staked his political identity on maligning immigrants and supporting restrictive immigration policies. Sixty-two percent of Iowans living in King’s district say a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented workers is a worthy goal.
(After publication of this story, King's office objected to his being described as "maligning immigrants." King, a spokesman said, opposes illegal immigration but supports "those who follow the legal process.")
Half of Iowans also oppose building a wall along the southern border.
Fifty percent say the wall “should not be funded under any circumstances,” and another 15 percent say funding should be contingent on permanent legal status for DACA recipients or with a broader deal involving most immigrants.
“As far as the wall goes, that’s just the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard in my entire life,” said Sara Johnson, a 39-year-old Democrat from Maquoketa. “Whether there’s a wall there or not, people are still going to get into America. Why spend all that money that could be allocated to other things on a wall that doesn’t need to be there? It’s ridiculous.”
Thirty percent responded in favor of funding a wall regardless of other developments on immigration policy.
Eric Deitz, a 55-year-old engineer from the Quad Cities, believes undocumented immigrants should be required to leave the country and seek entry legally. Building a wall, he said, is necessary regardless of additional immigration reforms.
“We have a sieve right now on our southern border," said Deitz, a political independent. “There’s nothing to stop people from just walking across. What we have doesn’t deter any illegal immigration.”
Unlike the widely uniform views on legal status for the undocumented, views on wall-building tend to fall along more traditional partisan lines.
Eighty-two percent of Democrats say the wall should not be funded; 60 percent of Republicans say it should be funded no matter what. Fifty-six percent of Iowans living in cities oppose the wall; a 46 percent plurality of rural Iowans support it.
About the poll
The Iowa Poll, conducted January 28-31 for The Des Moines Register and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 801 Iowans ages 18 or older. Interviewers with Quantel Research contacted households with randomly selected landline and cell phone numbers supplied by Survey Sampling International. Interviews were administered in English. Responses were adjusted by age and sex to reflect the general population based on recent census data.
Questions based on the sample of 801 Iowa adults have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the same methodology, 19 times out of 20, the findings would not vary from the true population value by more than plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Results based on smaller samples of respondents — such as by gender or age — have a larger margin of error.
Republishing the copyright Iowa Poll without credit to The Des Moines Register and Mediacom is prohibited.