DREAM Act gets wide support in NJ

With President Obama’s announcement last week that he would implement key parts of the DREAM act (though not all) by executive order, we have the opportunity to give some sense of how NJ feels about the provisions of the proposed bill which last got bottled up in the U.S. Senate. The DREAM act would apply to undocumented immigrants brought here as children, thus having not themselves made a choice to come to the U.S. without legal status. The act would provide an opportunity for citizenship, though Obama’s executive order does not go that far.

In our most recent poll, we had a battery on NJ attitudes toward immigration as part of a project we intend to report at the end of summer. But one of the questions specifically asked about support for the DREAM Act provisions. So given the news, we thought we’d take a look at that question.

The result – wide support in NJ when the provisions of the act are provided. About 40 percent say they strongly support it, and another 40 percent “somewhat” support the bill. This suggest pretty broad support for Obama’s move here in the Garden State, though we did not poll specifically on that since our poll was in the field May 31 – June 4, before Obama’s move.

At one point we thought maybe these numbers are out of whack – even Republicans at least somewhat support the proposal. But consider that Marco Rubio, Republican Senator from Florida was working on a proposal now preempted by Obama, and the fact that other polls have shows support nationally and in interesting states like Arizona, our results make sense. After all, this is about those brought to the U.S. through no decision of their own, and who may not even have a country to be deported to.

Full text of today’s release follows. Click here for a PDF with questions and tables.


 NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – As President Barack Obama moves to implement parts of the DREAM Act by executive order, bypassing the need for congressional approval, a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds that 80 percent of New Jerseyans support the provisions of the proposed law. The DREAM Act would prevent young undocumented immigrants from being deported if they met certain requirements regarding age, criminal background and education or military service.

Last week, the president called his executive order, “the right thing to do for the American people.” While the poll was taken two weeks before Obama’s announcement, the findings suggest that his decision is likely to be popular in New Jersey.

“Though the president’s order does not grant permanent citizenship as the DREAM Act would, the new poll results suggest strong support for his action,” said Poll Director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers. “While some may suggest Obama didn’t go far enough, he is not likely to face significant voter backlash here. However, some of the more lukewarm supporters in our poll might be concerned about Obama taking unilateral action.”

After hearing the specifics of the DREAM Act, Garden Staters are evenly split at about 40 percent each between whether they “strongly” or “somewhat” support it, while 10 percent somewhat oppose the act, and 8 percent strongly oppose it.

Results are from a statewide poll of 1,191 adults using both landlines and cell phones from May 31-June 4. The sample has a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points.

Majority support cuts across demographic lines

Reflecting recent national and state polls, which find majority support for the DREAM Act, support in New Jersey cuts across typical demographic divides. While nearly 90 percent of New Jersey’s immigrants support the proposed legislation, even typical opponents of immigration show some support.

“Prior to Obama’s decision, key tenets of the program were supported by Democrats and Republicans, even though the bill did not get past Congress,” said Redlawsk. “Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, for example, recently offered a similar plan that did not go quite as far as the original DREAM Act. So it is not surprising to see support from both sides of the aisle in New Jersey.”

While 87 percent of Democrats support the DREAM Act provisions, so do 77 percent of independents and even 70 percent of Republicans. Support also extends to a majority of each age cohort; 86 percent the youngest New Jerseyans, 82 percent of 30 to 49 year-olds and 74 percent 50 and older support the proposed law.

Hispanics and African-Americans are more likely to strongly support the DREAM Act than whites, but a large majority of each group supports the proposal: 85 percent of Hispanics express support followed by 82 percent of African-Americans, and 77 percent of white New Jerseyans.

Even those who are more unfavorable to the presence and impact of immigrants in New Jersey favor the DREAM Act’s provisions, with 70 percent at least somewhat supportive of the proposal. And among those who think immigrants hurt the state’s economy, two-thirds still express some support.

“One key point is that the DREAM Act is about those who are brought to the U.S. illegally as children, not through any choice of their own,” noted Redlawsk. “These young people are apparently looked upon much more sympathetically than those who have made their own choice to come.”

Intensity of support varies

Clear majorities of every major demographic group express at least some support for the DREAM Act, but levels of support vary. While 51 percent of Democrats offer strong support, only 34 percent of independents and 30 percent of Republicans do the same. But an additional 40 percent or more of the latter groups “somewhat” support the act.

Majorities of African-Americans and Hispanics strongly support the proposal, compared to 35 percent of whites, although another 42 percent are somewhat supportive. Fifty-nine percent of immigrants strongly support the act, 22 percent higher than U.S.-born Garden Staters.

“This differing intensity suggests that with the president making an end-run around Congress, there is room for those who oppose Obama anyway to shift their position and come out opposed,” said Redlawsk. “So while we show strong support for the DREAM act’s provisions, we cannot be sure that this translates completely into support for Obama’s move. Most likely it does among those already strongly support the law, while creating conflict about the issue for others.”

Among New Jerseyans who say there are too many immigrants in the state, 31 percent still strongly support the DREAM Act while another 39 percent somewhat support it. Meanwhile 47 percent of those who think immigration levels are “just right” give strong support and another 40 percent are somewhat supportive.

Support from those who know, don’t know immigrants

Eighty-six percent of respondents born outside the U.S. support the DREAM Act, with 59 showing strong support. Likewise, 83 percent of those with at least one immigrant parent support the proposal.

New Jerseyans’ amount of contact with immigrants only slightly affects support for the act.  Seventy-three percent who interact with immigrants less than once a month show at least some support for the act; 80 percent of respondents with daily contact show support.

Support also does not depend on the personal importance Garden Staters assign to the issue of immigration. The small number (about 6 percent) who say immigration is their most important issue are more likely to strongly support the DREAM Act than the 20 percent of respondents who say immigration is not an important issue at all. Even so large majorities show at least some support across all levels of issue importance.

Those who consider immigration their most important issue are also the only group showing more than 25 percent strong opposition to the DREAM Act, suggesting the issue is very important both to those in support of and opposed to immigration. Conservative New Jerseyans, who make up about one-fifth of the sample, are the only other group coming close to a large number strongly opposed to the proposed law, at 19 percent.


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