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78% of Arizonans favor path to citizenship for undocumented
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78% of Arizonans favor path to citizenship for undocumented

  • New American citizens taking the citizenship oath.
    Chrysaora/FlickrNew American citizens taking the citizenship oath.

Arizonans overwhelmingly favor a comprehensive approach to immigration policies – secure borders and enforcement, coupled with a possible pathway to citizenship for undocumented residents, according to a new statewide poll by Dr. Bruce Merrill and the Morrison Institute for Public Policy.

Seventy-eight percent of Arizonans surveyed said they would support legislation for undocumented longtime residents to become citizens if they pay a fine, pass a criminal background check here and their nation of origin, get a taxpayer I.D. number and demonstrate they can speak English.

Such a position is in stark contrast to hard-line stances held by many state leaders, including Senate President Russell Pearce, the face and force behind Arizona's aggressive anti-illegal-immigration politics, including SB 1070. Pearce lost a historic recall election Tuesday to challenger Jerry Lewis, whose campaign included a more moderate approach to immigration issues than his fellow Mesa Republican.

"The issue of illegal immigration is much more complex than most people realize," said Merrill, senior research fellow at Arizona State University's Morrison Institute and the poll director.

"People see the issues of border enforcement and what to do about undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for many years, many with children who are American citizens, as separate issues. This poll shows that while almost all Arizonans want stronger enforcement of border security, people also are strongly in favor of some sort of earned citizenship program."

That position is underscored by the fact illegal immigration was listed in the poll among the top problems – along with jobs and education – facing the governor and Legislature.

Full results of the statewide poll, which covered issues ranging from sales tax to election reform to education funding, will be released Nov. 30 in Phoenix at the Morrison Institute's State of Our State Conference.

In the poll, immigration policies that would include possible citizenship were supported most by young people, Hispanics, women, college graduates and registered Democrats and Independents (ranging from 84 percent to 89 percent, depending on individual group). However, more than 66 percent of registered Republicans also supported that approach.

"While the immigration issue has been characterized as a partisan one, these findings indicate that it is less so than most have believed," said Dr. David Daugherty, director of research at Morrison Institute.

"Clearly when given details about a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, the majority of citizens are amenable to it. Part of the lesson from these findings is that increased information and greater detail – as stated in the poll question itself – can serve to moderate opinions," Daugherty added.

The statewide poll of adult heads of households was conducted Oct. 4 to 11. Fifty-nine percent of the 600 telephone interviews were conducted in Maricopa County, 17 percent in Pima County and 24 percent in Arizona's other counties. Forty-nine percent of the voters interviewed were men; 51 percent were women. The sample was selected so as to include representative numbers of cell phone users and Hispanics. The sampling error for the statewide sample survey is plus or minus 4.0 percent.

Morrison Institute for Public Policy is a leader in examining critical Arizona and regional issues, and is a catalyst for public dialogue. An Arizona State University resource, Morrison Institute uses nonpartisan research and communication outreach to help improve the state's quality of life.

The director of communications for the Morrison Institute of Public Policy at ASU, Garcia is a longtime, award-winning journalist whose experience as a top editor, columnist and reporter included positions at The Arizona Republic, The Daily Times, Tucson Citizen, USA Today and The Associated Press.

Poll question

There are a number of undocumented immigrants who have lived in Arizona for many years. Many have children who are American citizens. Would you support or oppose legislation that would allow these people to be put on a path to becoming American citizens if they have no criminal record either where they came from or here in Arizona if they pay a fine for coming into the country illegally, get a taxpayer I.D. number and demonstrate they can speak English?

Poll results

Support Oppose Don't know
Total sample 78% (83) 16 6
Republicans 69% (73) 25 6
Democrats 89% (94) 6 5
Independents 79% (83) 16 5
Anglo76% (81) 18 6
Hispanic 81% (89) 10 9
H.S. or less 67% (75) 22 11
Some college 74% (80) 19 7
College graduates 82% (85) 14 4
Men 72% (77) 22 6
Women 80% (85) 14 6
Under 35 years of age 84% (90) 9 7
35 thru 59 79% (84) 15 6
60 and older 72% (77) 21 7

Numbers in parentheses are for those with an opinion.

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