Full text of the release follows. Click here for a PDF of the text, questions, and tables.


Half say Obama had no choice but to act

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – A majority of New Jersey residents (53 percent) support President Barack Obama’s executive order sparing millions of undocumented immigrants from risk of immediate deportation by refocusing enforcement efforts on “felons, not families,” according to results of a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today. Forty-two percent oppose the action, and six percent are unsure.

Obama’s Nov. 20 announcement also provides an opportunity to apply for three years of relief from deportation and work permits, available to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before 2010 and were under 16 years old or have at least one child who is a US citizen or legal resident. Those who will be able to avoid deportation are mostly parents and young people.

While a plurality of 43 percent says Obama went too far in bypassing Congress with his executive order, more residents think either he did not go far enough (23 percent) or did about right (25 percent).

Half of New Jerseyans say Obama had no choice but to act, agreeing with the president’s claim that he had to use an executive order because Congress has refused to pass needed reforms. But nearly as many – 47 percent – think the president should have continued efforts to work with Congress on immigration reform.

“Obama acted knowing he will face a hostile Republican-led Congress next year,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Here in New Jersey, that decision goes over relatively well, although even some who support this action would have preferred that he keep trying to work with Congress.”

The president’s announcement generated an outcry from Republicans in Congress, some of whom suggested shutting down the government or initiating impeachment over Obama’s action. New Jersey residents, however, overwhelmingly say Republicans should simply pass their own immigration legislation if they are unhappy with Obama’s decision. Nearly six in ten take this position, while 17 percent think Republicans should do nothing in response. Ten percent call for impeachment, while six percent support a Republican lawsuit against the president. Just 3 percent say Republicans should shut down the government.

Results are from a statewide poll of 750 residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Dec. 3-10, 2014, with a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points.

New Jersey’s diversity drives support for Obama action

Support for Obama’s executive order is driven primarily by the diversity of the New Jersey population, where recent Census Bureau reports suggest that non-whites make up about 40 percent of adults. White New Jerseyans oppose Obama’s immigration plan, with just 41 percent in favor and 55 percent opposed. But nonwhite residents are strongly in favor of the decision, with 70 percent supporting and 22 percent disagreeing with the president. Nonwhite support is driven in particular by the nearly three-quarters of Hispanic residents who agree with Obama’s decision.

“Obama’s order focuses on undocumented immigrants, including the 74 percent the Department of Homeland Security estimates come from Spanish-speaking countries and another 10 percent who are Asian. Thus for Hispanic and Asian New Jerseyans, this may be seen as more personal than it is for whites, even if they are not themselves immigrants.”

Whites in New Jersey are much more likely to think Obama went too far with his action, 58 percent to just 22 percent of nonwhites. Only 16 percent of whites think Obama did not go far enough, but 33 percent of nonwhites think he could have done more, including 36 percent of Hispanic residents.

An even bigger disparity exists on the question of whether Obama should have tried to do more with Congress about immigration. While 68 percent of nonwhite Garden Staters think Obama had no choice but to act, just 38 percent of whites agree. Instead, 61 percent of whites think Obama should have continued to work with Congress on this issue.

Among immigrants of all ethnicities, 71 percent support the Obama measure, while 22 percent oppose it. Children of immigrants have similar preferences, supporting the new policy 62 percent to 31 percent opposed. But New Jerseyans born in the U.S. are nearly evenly split, with 48 percent supporting the president and 46 percent opposing his new policy toward undocumented immigrants.

Supporters and opponents call on Congressional Republicans to pass their own bill

Among those who support Obama’s action, 62 percent say that if Republicans in Congress are unhappy with Obama, they should pass their own bill. More than half (53 percent) of those opposed to the new policy say the same.

“While many Congressional Republicans have expressed outrage at Obama’s action, New Jerseyans generally think they should just get their act together and pass a bill,” said Redlawsk. “This is the case regardless of whether or not they are happy about what Obama’s done.”

Men (49 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed) are less supportive of Obama’s actions than women (56 percent support, 37 percent opposed). But men are more likely to tell Congress to focus on passing its own immigration law, 62 percent, compared to 52 percent of women. Twenty-one percent of women say Congress should just do nothing, versus just 12 percent of men.

Among white respondents, 63 percent want Congress to act, while 11 percent say nothing else needs to be done. But among nonwhites, just 47 percent want Congress to pass a law, while 24 percent want nothing else done.

Partisans line up as expected; but independents split

Unsurprisingly, most Democrats (75 percent) support the president, while just 24 percent of Republicans are on his side on immigration. Independents in New Jersey are all but evenly split, 48 percent in favor to 45 percent opposed.

Paralleling support levels, 74 percent of Republicans think Obama went too far in his unilateral action, a view shared by just 20 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of independents. A third of Democrats think Obama did not go far enough, as do 20 percent of independents; just 13 percent of Republicans agree. Another 40 percent of Democrats and 20 percent of independents volunteer that Obama’s action was just right, although fewer than one in 10 Republicans concur.

While independents are more supportive than opposed to Obama’s executive order, they come down more on the side of Republicans in saying the president should have worked with Congress on the issue. Fifty-two percent of independents say this, while 45 percent think Obama had no choice but to act. Eighty-two percent of Republicans believe Obama acted precipitously, instead of working with Congress. Nearly as many Democrats (76 percent) think Obama had to act as and when he did.

As to what Congress should do next, both parties tend to agree that Congressional Republicans should respond to Obama by passing their own bill, a position taken by 63 percent of Republican residents, 60 percent of independents, and even 50 percent of Democrats. On the other hand, nearly one in five Republicans says impeachment should be the next move by the soon-to-be Republican-led Congress; one in ten independents and virtually no Democrats agree. Filing a lawsuit is not seen as the preferred course of action by anyone – just 8 percent of Republicans, 7 percent of Independents, and 5 percent of Democrats want this course of action. There is little interest in shutting down government over the issue; just 3 percent of New Jerseyans choose this option, with no partisan differences.


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