Poll: Immigration is most important problem for Trump and Congress

Last Updated Feb 23, 2017 12:58 PM EST

By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus, Kabir Khanna and Anthony Salvanto

The State of the Economy

Sixty-one percent now say the economy is in good shape – the highest that figure has been in ten years in CBS News polls, before the Great Recession.

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Improved views of the economy are driven largely by increased positive assessments among Republicans. Sixty-one percent of Republicans now say the economy is good, a jump of 30 points since December, before Donald Trump was sworn in as President. A majority of Democrats think the economy is in good shape, although the percentage has dipped from 78 percent to 67 percent.  

A third of Americans think the economy is getting better. Fifty-four percent of Republicans think the economy is improving, up from 28 percent in December. Only 15 percent of Democrats now say the economy is improving, down from 46 percent at the end of last year. 

Thirty-five percent of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction, while 60 percent think it is seriously off on the wrong track. 

Immigration

When Americans are asked to name the most important problem for the President and Congress to address this year, immigration is the top answer, cited by 15 percent. This is closely followed by the economy and jobs (13 percent) and health care (11 percent). Republicans are especially likely to say immigration should be the chief priority for the President and Congress.

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Most of the poll was conducted before the release of memos by the Trump administration addressing deportation and illegal immigration.

This poll finds a majority of Americans think that not enough is being done to ensure that foreigners who enter the U.S. from other countries are not a risk to security. Three in four Republicans think not enough is being done. The Trump administration is expected to unveil a new executive order soon concerning entry to the U.S. from other countries.

While Americans express concern about the potential security risk regarding people coming to the U.S. from other countries, most continue to support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the U.S. Six in ten Americans think that illegal immigrants currently living in the U.S. should be allowed to stay and apply for citizenship. Another 13 percent think they should be permitted to stay but not apply for citizenship, and 23 percent would require them to leave the U.S.  These percentages have changed little over the past few years.  

Forty-three percent of Republicans support requiring illegal immigrants to leave the country; Seventy-nine percent of Democrats think they should be allowed to apply for citizenship, as do 60 percent of independents.

Just one in five think that illegal immigrants are more likely than American citizens to commit crimes, rising to 38 percent among Republicans and falling to nine percent among Democrats.

As discussion continues about the proposed wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, 58 percent of Americans oppose building a wall, while 39 percent favor that.  Republicans are far more likely to support this measure: 77 percent favor the wall. Just 11 percent of Democrats do.

Rating President Trump

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On specific issues, President Trump gets his most positive marks on handling the economy and the public splits on the job he is doing on terrorism. However, majorities disapprove of Mr. Trump’s handling of foreign policy and immigration. Here, too, views are highly partisan. 

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Much of Mr. Trump’s campaign for president focused on keeping jobs in the U.S. Six in 10 Americans are very or somewhat confident that President Trump’s policies will create jobs.

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Just over a month after taking office, President Trump’s overall job approval rating is 39 percent -- similar to what it was earlier this month. Fifty-one percent of Americans disapprove, and 10 percent don’t have an opinion.   

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Views continue to be strikingly partisan:  more than eight in 10 Republicans approve of Mr. Trump’s job performance, and more than eight in 10 Democrats disapprove.  Independents are more likely to disapprove than approve.


This poll was conducted by telephone February 17-21, 2017 among a random sample of 1,280 adults nationwide.  Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, PA.  Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. 

The poll employed a random digit dial methodology. For the landline sample, a respondent was randomly selected from all adults in the household. For the cell sample, interviews were conducted with the person who answered the phone. 

Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish using live interviewers. The data have been weighted to reflect U.S. Census figures on demographic variables. 

The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher and is available by request. The margin of error includes the effects of standard weighting procedures which enlarge sampling error slightly. 

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.  

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