Majority of Religious Americans Support Path to Citizenship


By Annika Ray Darling
A religion, values, and immigration reform survey shows the majority of members of major religions support a path to citizenship for immigrants.
Here is how the numbers in the Public Religion Research Institute/Brookings Institute survey play out: Hispanic Catholics (74%); Hispanic Protestants (71%);  black Protestants (70%); Jewish Americans (67%); Mormons (63%); white Catholics (62%); white mainline Protestants (61%) and white evangelical Protestants (56%), agree that the immigration system should allow immigrants currently living in the U.S. illegally to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements.
Polling almost 4,500 people, the survey is the largest ever done on the topic of immigration. The project’s aim was to gauge American’s views on immigration policy through separate political, religious, ethnic and generational lenses; and unearth the influential factors of these views.
Overall, the survey found, Americans are more likely to have positive rather than negative views about immigrants. But a “significant minority” disagree, according to an executive summary of the survey’s findings.
Religious groups are divided over which political party they trust to do a better job handling the issue of immigration. Seven-in-ten black Protestants say they place more trust in the Democratic Party’s ability to handle immigration. A plurality of religiously unaffiliated Americans (46% vs. 22%) and Catholics (43% vs. 27%) also say they trust the Democratic Party over the Republican Party to handle immigration.
Among Catholics, there is a significant ethnic divide: Hispanic Catholics are much more likely to trust the Democratic Party over the Republican Party (59% vs. 14%), while white Catholics are nearly evenly divided (34% vs. 35%)
White mainline Protestants are also nearly evenly divided between the parties: one-third (33%) trust the Democrats, 30% trust the Republicans, and 29% say they trust neither party. By contrast, a majority (52%) of white evangelical Protestants say they place more trust in the Republican Party on the issue of immigration, while 18% say they trust the Democratic Party.
The majority of Americans (63 percent), regardless of religious affiliation or political identity, support a path to citizenship for immigrants. They also believe the immigration system should deal with immigrants currently living in the U.S. by allowing them to become citizens, should they meet specific requirements.
Robert Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute, said, “What’s remarkable about that support, particularly in today’s politically polarized environment, is that it crossed party lines and it crossed religious lines. Majorities of every political group and every religious group support a path to citizenship for immigrants already living here.”
According to the PRRI-Brookings findings while the majority of Americans agree that immigration is an important issue, or even an extremely important issue, most Americans are more concerned about jobs, reducing the budget deficit and changing the federal income tax system than about immigration reform.
The survey, conducted in both English and in Spanish, heavily examined the cultural context of these findings. It acknowledged that the face of America is changing, that the demographics are drastically shifting, and reveals how this played a significant role in the more welcoming response to immigration – particularly with millennials (ages 18-29).
The survey pinpointed the top five values that resonate as important guides on immigration reform for the majority of Americans: promoting national security, keeping the family together, protecting the dignity of every person, ensuring fairness to taxpayers, and enforcing the rule of law.