Immigration issues, including questions about who should have U.S. citizenship, have hurt President Obama's standing with voters, according to the latest Quinnipiac University national poll.
The poll, carried out during the first week in September, found that respondents had a strong anti-immigrant tilt, favoring, by 68% to 24%, stricter enforcement of immigration laws rather than integrating illegal immigrants into society and, by 48% to 45%, an end to the constitutionally guaranteed practice of granting U.S. citizenship to children born of illegal immigrants.
With members of Congress back in Washington for a short session before leaving to campaign, no one is expecting lawmakers to move on an issue as divisive as immigration reform. But some Republicans are pushing for congressional hearings on the birth issue, which conservatives have propelled into a campaign theme in races in which tea party movement candidates are running viable races.
Estimates vary, but there are about 4 million children of illegal immigrants who are U.S. citizens by right of birth in this country. Many are the children of settled illegal immigrants, but conservatives argue that women are sneaking into the country to give birth and gain U.S. citizenship for their children.
"Many Americans want to end 'birthright citizenship,' an issue some Republican senators want to explore through congressional hearings," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Voters were told that 'our Constitution and current laws' blessed the practice, and the prospect of having to change one or both apparently doesn't faze them."
The electoral impact of the issue seems limited. Democratic respondents favored granting citizenship by 62% to 31%, while Republican and independent respondents oppose it by 67% to 27% and 51% to 42%, respectively.
"The support for ending 'birthright citizenship' is not overwhelming and falls along predictable political lines that are consistent with how the Arizona law aimed at limiting illegal immigration is playing across the country," Brown said.
By a 60%-to-28% margin, respondents disapproved of the way Obama is handling illegal immigration, the poll found.
The poll of 1,905 voters was carried out Aug. 31 to Sept. 7. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.
The immigration issues are part of what has hurt Obama's standing, Brown said. By 44% to 31%, respondents disapproved of how Obama handled the dispute over a proposed mosque and community center to be built near the former World Trade Center in New York, destroyed nine years ago by Islamic terrorists. Obama, like top New York leaders as Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have defended the Muslim group that is building the project.
"Illegal immigration and the proposed mosque near ground zero are taking a toll on President Barack Obama's standing with American voters," Brown said. "The fact that so many Americans think the president does not share their values might worry the White House. Historically, voters tend to see Democratic presidents as more likely to share their values than Republicans."