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Poll: U.S. Border Control Lacking

Most Americans do not think the U.S. is doing enough to keep illegal immigrants from entering the country, but they are opposed to letting citizen volunteers patrol the borders. George W. Bush gets low marks for his handling of the issue of immigration generally.

In this CBS News Poll, three in four Americans say the U.S. is not doing enough along its borders to keep illegal immigrants from entering the country. Just 15 percent say the U.S. is doing enough. Significant majorities of all demographic groups say the U.S. is not doing enough to keep illegal immigrants from crossing the border.

GOVT. JOB KEEPING ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS FROM ENTERING U.S.?

Doing enough
15%
Doing too much
4%
Not doing enough
75%

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Recently, citizen volunteers known as "minutemen" have been patrolling some U.S. borders to try and keep out illegal immigrants. A majority of Americans — 65 percent — opposes this and thinks border patrol should be left to government law enforcement. 31 percent say citizens should be allowed to patrol U.S. borders.

SHOULD VOLUNTEERS BE ALLOWED TO PATROL U.S. BORDERS?

Yes
31%
No
65%

More women (71 percent) than men (58 percent) oppose the idea of "minutemen" patrolling U.S. borders. Also, eight in 10 Democrats are against allowing citizens to patrol U.S. borders, while Republicans are divided: 50 percent favor the idea, while 48 percent oppose it.

The President receives low ratings in this poll for his handling of the overall issue of immigration. Only 21 percent of Americans approve of President Bush's handling of it, while 53 percent disapprove. 26 percent are not sure.

PRESIDENT BUSH'S HANDLING OF IMMIGRATION

Approve
21%
Disapprove
53%
Don't know
26%

Even many members of the President's political base do not approve of the job he is doing on immigration. 44 percent of Republicans disapprove of his handling of the issue, while just 30 percent approve. Among conservatives, nearly half disapprove of Bush's handling of immigration; only a quarter approve. In addition, 47 percent of white evangelicals disapprove.

Today, 51 percent of Americans think legal immigration in the U.S. should be decreased. Three in 10 think the level of legal immigration should be kept the same, while just 11 percent say it should be increased. These views have not changed very much over the years, with the exception of a slight uptick in the percentage who wanted to decrease immigration in the months following the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001.

LEGAL IMMIGRATION TO THE U.S. SHOULD BE…

Increased
Now
11%
7/2005
13%
12/2001
9%
10/1996
8%

Kept as is
Now
30%
7/2005
32%
12/2001
29%
10/1996
35%

Decreased
Now
51%
7/2005
51%
12/2001
59%
10/1996
50%

Southerners are more likely than those in other regions of the country to say legal immigration to the U.S. should be decreased.

Still, Americans do not think immigrants take desirable jobs away from citizens. 58 percent think immigrants mostly take jobs that Americans don't want, and 31 percent say immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans. Similar views have been expressed since CBS News starting asking the question in 1986.

IMMIGRANTS TO THE U.S…

Take jobs away from Americans
Now
31%
7/2005
33%
10/1996
22%
6/1986
34%

Take jobs Americans don't want
Now
58%
7/2005
52%
10/1996
67%
6/1986
52%

In fact, 46 percent say today's immigrants work harder than people born in the U.S. 6 percent say they do not work as hard, and 43 percent say there isn't much difference. Here too, opinions have remained fairly constant over the years.

DO TODAY'S IMMIGRANTS WORK HARDER THAN PEOPLE BORN IN THE U.S.?

Yes, work harder
Now
46%
1/2004
46%
6/1986
45%

No, not as hard
Now
6%
1/2004
6%
6/1986
8%

Not much difference
Now
43%
1/2004
39%
6/1986
33%


This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 808 adults, interviewed by telephone October 3-5, 2005. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus four percentage points.
For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.

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