Elon University Poll results on immigration, education

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A new Elon University Poll finds that 63 percent of North Carolinians disagree with proposals that would allow undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. as long as they have a job.

The poll, conducted November 13-16 by the Elon University Institute for Politics and Public Affairs, surveyed 533 North Carolina residents. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent. In the survey, immigration was defined as “the undocumented immigration of Hispanic or Latino populations into North Carolina.”

The poll found that 56 percent of citizens said the immigration of Hispanics or Latinos to North Carolina in recent years has been bad for the state, up from 44 percent in an April 2006 Elon Poll. Fifty-three percent agreed with the statement “immigrants today are a burden on the state because they take jobs, housing and health care,” down from 57 percent in April. Twenty-nine percent agreed with the statement “immigrants today strengthen the state because of their hard work and talents,” up from 25 percent in April. Eighteen percent said immigration has been good for the state, compared with 26 percent in April.

Sixty-one percent said immigration was a very important issue to them, down from 71 percent in the April poll. Thirty-two percent said immigration was somewhat important, compared with 23 percent in April.

“People in North Carolina see immigrants as taking more than they give back to the state,” said Hunter Bacot, director of the Elon University Poll. “With more and more people saying immigration is bad for the state, we will have to see how this issue plays out politically over the next year.”

North Carolinians were asked a series of questions to determine what makes immigration an issue. Seventy-two percent believe immigrants don’t pay their fair share in taxes, compared with 73 percent in April 2006. Sixty-nine percent said immigrants who have not entered the state legally have broken the law regardless of their situation, down from 75 percent in the April poll. Seventy-three percent said immigration is an issue because it costs too much to provide immigrants with health care services. Fifty-two percent said immigration is an issue because immigrants take jobs away from North Carolinians, down from 55 percent in April.

When asked about public education in North Carolina, 44 percent of citizens felt that public education has gotten off on the wrong track or strongly gotten off on the wrong track. Forty-three percent felt that public education in the state is going in the right direction or is strongly going in the right direction; 14 percent said they did not know.

Citizens were also asked about the issues facing public schools in their communities. Thirteen percent listed the quality of teachers as the most important issue, followed by overcrowding (11 percent); adequate funding and supplies (8 percent); discipline (7 percent); standardized tests (6 percent); student behavior (5 percent); violence (5 percent); and teacher salaries (5 percent).

“It is apparent that citizens are somewhat displeased with the state of public education in North Carolina,” said Bacot. “Since many counties face significant enrollment and construction challenges, which ultimately lead to budget difficulties, the problems facing public schools seem ever present. Evidently, these problems are more the rule than the exception in many counties.”

Forty-seven percent of respondents said the state should take over management of schools that fail to meet state standards, while 36 percent said the state should not take over such schools. Sixty-seven percent agreed or strongly agreed that the state should continue to fund school districts whose students do not meet standardized test goals; 25 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed. In terms of overall funding for public schools, 49 percent said the state government should be responsible for most of the public school budget, while 23 percent said local governments should be responsible. Nineteen percent said the federal government should bear primary funding responsibility.

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.