More Americans approve of the job President Joe Biden is doing to handle immigration than that of his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, according to an exclusive Spectrum News-Ipsos Poll – but President Biden’s approval rating for immigration is below his overall job rating.
Of those polled, 45% approve of the way President Biden is handling immigration – compared to a 54% overall job approval rating per a June 3, 2021 Ipsos survey – compared to 39% for Trump.
While the majority of those polled did not consider immigration to be the top issue facing the country today — 24% of those polled responded as such, similar to health care (25%) and COVID-19 (27%), and behind racial injustice (29%) and crime or violence (32%) — Americans are divided on how best to address the issue.
In a sign of the partisanship dividing the country, of those who disapprove of the way Biden (43%) and Trump (55%) handle immigration, it is worth noting that many Americans responded that they “strongly disapprove” of the job they’re doing — 30% for Biden and 45% for Trump.
Compared to Biden, a similar number of Americans approve of the job done by immigration and border patrol agents at the U.S.-Mexico border, though fewer disapprove — 44% approval, 35% disapproval — somewhat underscoring the perception that no agency or party has complete control over immigration, but highlighting the need for comprehensive immigration reform, something both parties agree with — though not necessarily finding consensus on how to handle the issue.
Biden unveiled a sweeping immigration proposal on the first day of his presidency, which would provide the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. a path to citizenship, while a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled legislation of their own in April, which would address surges of migration at the border.
Sixty-one percent of Americans believe any undocumented immigrant should be able to follow a legal process to obtain U.S. citizenship, a key tenet of Biden’s immigration proposal.
By and large, Americans seem to approve of the way Biden’s administration is handling the situation at the border, with 48% of those polled disagreeing with the statement that the current administration is not doing enough to help immigrants. Americans are split on the belief that the administration is is not doing enough to reunite migrant families separated at the border, with 36% agreeing with that statement, but 37% disagreeing.
But to both questions, more than 20% of Americans responded by saying they “don’t know,” possibly showing a lack of awareness of what is going on at the border by a sizable number of Americans. A similar margin (20%) said they do not know if they approve or disapprove of the job immigration and border patrol agents are doing.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who Biden tapped to serve as the administration’s point person on addressing immigration issues at the southern border, received mixed praise — 41% approval and 40% disapproval of her handling of immigration.
Of those polled, about 30% “strongly disapprove” of the job both Biden and Harris are doing with immigration, possibly highlighting the “surge” of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent weeks tied to the administration. U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered more than 178,000 people at the southwest border in April, a two-decade record, the agency announced in April.
The vast majority — more than 111,000 in April, mostly single adults — are being turned away under a public health order, while the administration has made an exception for children who cross alone, families with young children and some vulnerable asylum seekers.
While the numbers reported last month represent crossings not seen since the year 2000, the Biden administration continues to use a health order put in place by former president Trump, called Title 42, to expel most people.
Central American countries also received a high disapproval rating for their handling of immigration — 50% — which comes as Vice President Harris is visiting Guatemala and Mexico this week in an effort to highlight the administration’s response to addressing the “root causes” of migration from Central America to the U.S.
In terms of how the U.S. can better handle immigration, a large majority of those polled support increasing criminal penalties for immigrant smugglers crossing into the country (71%), imposing sanctions on Mexico to encourage their government to work to reduce migrants or illegal drugs from entering the U.S. (63%) and increasing federal funding for immigration enforcement (61%).
What the majority of Americans did not support, however, was continuing construction of a wall or fence across the U.S.-Mexico border, with 47% opposing and 34% strongly opposing such an action.
A majority of Americans — 61% — think increasing spending and resources for federal agencies like U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a more effective way to slow or stop migration at the border.
But only 35% would support diverting funding from federal immigration enforcement to Central American countries to help them curb immigration into the U.S., seeming, again, to suggest little trust those nations’ handling of the situation.
Sixty-six percent of those polled believe the most important reason why migrants from Central America head to the U.S. border are coming to escape crime or violence, followed closely by 63% believing they are attempting to escape poverty and 62% thinking they are looking for jobs or work.
An overwhelming number of Americans — 76% — believe that immigrants are a part of the country’s national identity, while a smaller majority, 51%, believe that the country has a moral obligation to accept refugees facing persecution.
Sixty percent of those polled do not believe that immigrants are more likely to commit crimes or be incarcerated than those born in the U.S., but 60% of Americans agree that employers should prioritize hiring Americans over immigrants when hiring is scarce.
Seventy-five percent of those polled believe that federal government should devote more resources to stopping drugs from illegally entering via the U.S.-Mexico border.
Note: This Spectrum News/Ipsos poll was conducted May 24 to 31, 2021, by Ipsos. This poll is based on a representative sample of 1,005 U.S. adults, plus 505 California residents age 18+, and 506 Texas residents age 18+. The national sample was conducted in both English and Spanish on Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel®. The margin of error for the national survey is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence levels. For more information, click here.