As a bipartisan group of senators announced an agreement on immigration reform today, most Americans think illegal immigrants currently working in the United States should be allowed to stay either as guest workers or with the opportunity to become U.S. citizens.
A slim majority - 51 percent - thinks illegal immigrants working in the U.S. should be able to stay and apply for citizenship; another 20 percent say they should stay but only as guest workers. A quarter of Americans think illegal immigrants now working here should be required to leave the country.
Nearly two in three Democrats support giving illegal immigrants the chance to stay and apply for citizenship, compared to a third of Republicans who back that approach. A majority of non-whites (67 percent) back citizenship for illegal immigrants working in the U.S., while fewer than half of whites (46 percent) support that. Younger Americans are also more likely than those who are older to think illegal immigrants working in the U.S. should be allowed to apply for citizenship.
The percentage of Americans overall who would like to see illegal immigrants stay in the U.S. with the opportunity to become citizens is similar to what it was last fall, but it has risen 14 points since September 2011. Back then, 38 percent said illegal immigrants working in the U.S. should be required to leave the country.
Support for giving illegal immigrants the opportunity to become citizens has risen among many demographic groups since 2011, even across party lines. Among Democrats, support has gone up 15 points since September 2011. Republican support has risen from 24 percent to 35 percent now.
For full poll results, see next page
This poll was conducted by telephone from January 24-27, 2013 among 1,052 adults nationwide. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. 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. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.