Elon University Poll shows immigration is important issue in N.C.; citizens divided over impact

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A new Elon University Poll shows immigration is an important issue to North Carolinians, but citizens seem to be divided over whether recent immigration has been good or bad for the state.

The poll, conducted April 2-6 by the Elon University Institute for Politics and Public Affairs, surveyed 677 North Carolina residents. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percent.

Seventy-one percent of citizens said immigration is a very important issue, 23 percent said it was somewhat important and 6 percent said it was not important at all. In a February 2006 Elon University Poll, 62 percent of citizens said immigration was a very important issue.
When asked whether recent immigration of Hispanics and Latinos to the state has been good or bad for North Carolina, 44 percent said it has been bad, 26 percent said it has been good and 16 percent said it hasn’t made much of a difference. Thirty-three percent said they thought immigrants come to North Carolina to escape conditions in their own country, 27 percent said immigrants come to take advantage of conditions in North Carolina, and 36 percent said immigrants come for both reasons.
Respondents were presented with a choice of statements to describe their view about immigration. Fifty-three percent said immigrants are a burden on the state because they take jobs, housing and health care, while 29 percent said immigrants strengthen the state because of their hard work and talents. Eight percent said neither statement reflected their opinion.

“There is obviously a great deal of concern about immigration in this state, but there is also some recognition of the contributions made by the Hispanic and Latino community,” said Hunter Bacot, director of the Elon University Poll. “Ultimately, it appears this issue hinges on whether North Carolinians can resolve their dissonance over whether immigrants are ‘getting more’ or ‘giving more’ to the state. Right now, it appears the public perception tilts toward the opinion that immigrants are getting more than they are giving.”

Respondents were also presented with a series of questions to determine what makes immigration an issue to them. Seventy percent said immigration was an issue to them because they believe providing services to immigrants, such as schools and health care, costs too much. Seventy-two percent said immigration is an issue because they believe immigrants don’t pay their fair share of taxes.

A majority of North Carolinians, 72 percent, did not agree with the statement that immigration is an issue “because they are the wrong kind of people coming to the state.” A slight majority, 52 percent, said immigration was an issue because immigrants take jobs away from North Carolinians; 44 percent did not agree with that statement. Similarly, state residents were split on whether immigration is an issue because “there’s too much Spanish spoken and everyone should speak English only.” Forty-eight percent agreed with that statement, while 47 percent disagreed.

Fifty-two percent of citizens said they believe most of the recent immigrants to their area are there illegally, while 18 percent said they are there legally. Twenty-four percent said they don’t know.

Sixty-three percent of citizens said they disagree or strongly disagree with proposals that would allow undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. for several years as long as they have a job. Thirty-two percent agree or strongly agree with such proposals.
“Though citizens are aware of the economic contribution offered by the immigrant population, this perspective is being overshadowed by the burden the public perceives immigrants impose on state services,” Bacot said.

Poll results were also distributed across party identification. Eighty percent of Republican respondents said immigration is very important to them, compared with 62 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of Independents. Sixty-three percent of Republicans said immigrants are a burden to the state, while 48 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of Independents said immigrants are a burden. Thirty-seven of Democrats and 33 percent of Independents said immigrants strengthen the state because of their work ethic and talents, while 20 percent of Republicans said immigrants strengthen the state.

“It is quite clear that the divide over immigration is based on party identification, so it will be interesting to see whether the issue holds well for the Republican party in upcoming elections,” Bacot said. “It could prove to be a very important issue for Republicans, who need to divert attention away from an unpopular president and war as the election season approaches.”

The Elon University Poll has conducted several polls annually since 2000. The non-partisan Elon University Poll conducts frequent scientific telephone polls on issues of importance citizens. The poll results are shared with media, citizens and researchers to facilitate representative democracy and public policy making through the better understanding of the opinions and needs of citizens in the state and region.