Politico: Poll: Despite the hype surrounding the immigration issue this fall, a new survey out of Iowa this morning is good news for Newt Gingrich: immigration is not high on Iowa voters’ list of issue priorities.
The survey, conducted by Selzer & Co. for a group of Iowa Republicans, found that despite strong opposition among Iowa voters to illegal immigration, less than half of them see it as a “critical” issue. Just 46 percent said halting illegal immigration is a “critical” issue, compared with 85 percent for reducing government spending and debt and 70 percent for creating jobs in the United States.
“This survey demonstrates that while opinions are strong on tough enforcement for illegal immigration, it is not the top-tier, hot button issue among Republican caucus-goers it’s often made out to be,” said John Stineman, a GOP strategist in Iowa who helped sponsor the poll.
Though it may not be on the forefront of most Iowa voters’ minds, immigration stances that stray from the Republican norm have caused trouble for candidates like Gingrich and Rick Perry. Both were attacked for their comments on the issue � Gingrich for saying a “humane” approach to enforcing immigration laws, and Perry for implying that those who take a hard-line stance don’t have a “heart.” Perry never fully recovered from his immigration comments and the attacks that followed.
Still, the survey found that most Iowa voters are strongly opposed to illegal immigration. A full 82 percent of those surveyed said they favor securing the border, and 74 percent said they would support developing a new system for employers to verify a worker’s immigration status.
But despite the tendency in tough economic times to use immigration as an "us-versus-them" issue, voters separate illegal immigration from legal immigration, and a majority of them do see new proposals to increase legal immigration as beneficial to the United States.
Two-thirds of respondents said they would support a plan to issue more temporary visas for high-skilled workers, and 64 percent said the same of low-skilled workers. A full 72 percent said they’d support granting permanent residency to foreign students who earn graduate degrees in the U.S.
The poll surveyed 400 likely Iowa caucus voters from November 16-19, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.