WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s immigration policies are highly unpopular, but voters are split over whether the Republican presidential nominee or his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, would better handle the issue, according to a new CNN/ORC Poll.
About 6-in-10 oppose building a wall along the entire border with Mexico, and most doubt that Mexico would ultimately pay for that wall, as Trump has suggested (74% say that’s unlikely). Two-thirds oppose mass deportation of the kind Trump advocated in an immigration-focused speech in Arizona last week, with 66% saying the government should not attempt to deport all people living in the country illegally (even among Trump’s supporters, just 45% support such a plan).
But there’s a tight split among voters over which candidate would do the better job handling immigration, according to results from the same CNN/ORC Poll released Monday. Among registered voters, 49% say they trust Clinton on the issue, 47% Trump. Those who trust Clinton on immigration overwhelmingly say the nation’s top immigration priority should be finding a way for those in the country illegally to stay (71%), while the Trump backers are more focused on stopping people from entering the country illegally (56%).
Overall, 51% say developing a plan to allow legal residency for those working in the US illegally should be the nation’s first priority in terms of immigration policy, while 36% say developing a plan to stop immigrants from entering the US illegally should be the first priority. Far fewer say the focus of US immigration policy should be on deporting immigrants living in the US illegally, just 11% rate that as a top priority.
There’s broad consensus on a bill to allow those immigrants working in the US illegally, who have been in the country for some time, speak English and are willing to pay back taxes, to remain in the country and eventually apply for citizenship (88% favor such a plan). On that, Clinton and Trump voters agree even though the candidates don’t, with 80% of Trump’s backers saying they would support such a bill and 94% of Clinton’s backers behind the idea.
Trump’s proposed wall along the border with Mexico provokes the largest gap between Clinton and Trump backers, 82% of Trump backers support the wall, 89% of Clinton voters oppose it.
Immigration now rivals the economy as a top concern for voters when considering who they’ll support in November, with 16% naming an immigration-related issue as their top concern in an open-ended question. The voters who name it as a top issue are more apt to support Trump’s approach to handling immigration. Overall, 61% of them say they trust Trump on immigration, 38% Clinton.
These immigration voters split between prioritizing border security (43% call that the top priority) and a plan to allow those working in the US illegally to stay (39% see that as the top priority). They are more apt than others to favor building a wall along the entire border with Mexico (54% compared with 41% overall) and deporting all immigrants living in the US illegally (43% vs. 30% overall).
Yet a broad majority, 78%, say they would favor a bill to allow those immigrants working in the US illegally, who meet certain criteria, to stay and eventually apply for citizenship.
The CNN/ORC Poll was conducted by telephone September 1-4 among a random national sample of 1,001 adults. The survey includes results among 886 registered voters and 786 likely voters. For results among registered or likely voters, the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.