Survey: 54% of New Jerseyans Say Undocumented Immigrants Should Be Allowed to Stay

Immigration400Days after the Senate passed an immigration bill, 54% of Garden State adults say undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the country, even if only as permanent residents, compared to 39% today who say undocumented immigrants should be deported, or worse, according to a SurveyUSA poll. The poll was conducted for The Immigration Project, a collaborative reporting effort of eight news organizations, led by the NJ News Commons at Montclair State University.

what should happenOverall: 42% favor a path to citizenship, another 12% want undocumented immigrants to be able to stay as permanent residents but with no path to citizenship, 34% say undocumented immigrants should be deported, and another 5% say undocumented immigrants should be criminally prosecuted in the United States.

However, New Jerseyans may be less tolerant of undocumented immigrants than Americans overall. A similar but not identical question asked of the entire United States by Quinnipiac University in May found that 54% thought illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay, and another 12%  thought they should be allowed to remain, though not as citizens.

The breakdown in the SurveyUSA poll of New Jersey adults, conducted this past weekend, mainly follows party and ideological lines:

* 54% of Democrats favor a path to citizenship, compared to 33% of Republicans.
* 48% of Hispanics favor a path to citizenship, compared to 36% of African Americans.
* Twice as many conservatives as liberals favor deportation or criminal prosecution of the undocumented.
* Twice as many conservatives as liberals say immigrants take jobs away from Americans.
* Of those born in America, 37% favor deportation. Of those born in another country, 17% favor deportation.

The differences between regions in New Jersey were striking with 48% in North Jersey supporting a path to citizenship, compared to 40% in South Jersey and 37% in Central Jersey.

Though the House is likely to fashion its own version of an immigration bill, those NJ residents who claimed knowledge about the Senate bill want their member of Congress to vote against it by a margin of 5 to 4, should the Senate bill come before the House: 51% of those who know “a lot” about the Senate bill want their member of Congress to oppose it; 42% want their member of Congress to support it.

Overwhelmingly, New Jersey residents say businesses should be required to verify that potential employees are in the country legally, and employers who fail to do so should be fined.

Lawn Worker an ImmigrantSome 26% of respondents said they employed someone to take care of their lawn. Of those, 31% believed their lawn worker to be an immigrant. And of those, 13% thought that worker was in the country illegally and 28% were not sure.

Amy Gottlieb, director of the Immigrant Rights Program at the American Friends Service Committee, said she was not surprised that the poll showed such a split portrait of attitudes. “It’s really complicated on its face,” she said. “New Jersey’s a blue state. Except that we have a Republican governor, some extremely wealthy communities and not a strong history of grassroot organizing efforts.”

Moreover, she said the poll demonstrates overall confusion about immigrants. “There’s not a lot of understanding of who immigrants are and how they get their status,” she said. She found the fact that 34% favored deportation “quite disappointing.”

SurveyUSA interviewed 800 New Jersey adults June 28 through July 1, 2013. The research was conducted using blended sample, mixed mode. Respondents reachable on a home telephone (77% of adults) were interviewed on their home telephone in the recorded voice of a professional announcer. Respondents not reachable on a home telephone (23% of adults) were shown a questionnaire on their smartphone, tablet or other electronic device. See the complete report, including data tables, here.

SurveyUSA is an independent, non-partisan, full-service opinion research firm that conducts scientific research for media, government, and private-sector clients. It was founded in 1990 and is based in Clifton, NJ.

The Immigration Project is a collaborative reporting effort — spearheaded by NJ News Commons — to cover the under-reported topic of immigration in the Garden State, which ranks fifth nationwide in the number of foreign-born residents and third by percentage. Contributors include WBGO, NJTV,, The Jersey Journal, Elizabeth Inside Out, Glocally Newark, the Paterson Times and WHYY. In addition, several filmmakers, professors, students and freelancers have joined the project. SurveyUSA is also a founding participant. The NJ News Commons is part of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State.

Follow The Immigration Project, an ongoing stream of stories about immigration by a variety of partners, here. All the stories in the feed are available to embed on any news site using the Repost button in the bottom right corner of the story.

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