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University of Iowa News Release


April 11, 2007

To view a PDF with the poll data only, click here.

UI Poll: Candidates' Immigration Stance Matters; Iowans Favor Earned Citizenship

Candidates' views on immigration policy will impact whom Iowa voters support in the 2008 presidential election, a poll conducted by University of Iowa political scientists indicates.

In the statewide, random poll of 1,290 registered voters conducted March 19-31, 84.9 percent of Democrats and 96.1 percent of Republicans said candidates' stance on immigration is a "very" or "somewhat" important factor in who gets their vote.

The poll also showed that Iowa voters favor "earned citizenship" over other immigration reform options. Earned citizenship was defined as allowing undocumented immigrants to eventually become U.S. citizens if they meet certain criteria, such as learning English and paying back taxes.

Earned citizenship was favored by 56.9 percent of Democrats and 56.7 percent of Republicans. UI political scientists found this level of agreement surprising, given the extensive media coverage of anti-immigration sentiment.

David Redlawsk and Caroline Tolbert, associate professors of political science in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, conducted the poll with Benjamin Knoll and other UI graduate student collaborators. The poll was carried out with the cooperation and facilities of the UI Social Science Research Center.

Respondents were asked how important a candidate's position on undocumented immigration is to their vote for president in 2008. They also were asked to choose which of four options best represents their view on what government policy regarding undocumented immigrants should be: 1) deport all undocumented immigrants, 2) allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. to work for a limited amount of time (a guest worker program), 3) allow undocumented immigrants to become U.S. citizens if they meet certain requirements like learning English and paying back taxes (earned citizenship), or 4) allow undocumented immigrants to become permanent residents with no requirements (amnesty).

Statewide Registered Voters

Of all registered voters, 46.3 percent said a candidate's immigration stance is "very important" to their vote, 41.4 percent said it is "somewhat important," 10 percent said it's "not that important" and 2.1 percent responded "don't know."

Of this same group, 57.2 percent favored earned citizenship, 22.6 percent favored deportation, 12.4 percent favored a guest worker program, 2.8 percent favored amnesty and 4 percent responded "don't know."

Men and women had significantly different views on immigration policy. Only 18.3 percent of women favored a mass deportation, but 27.5 percent of men did. Earned citizenship was favored by 62.8 percent of women, but only 51 percent of men.

Statewide Registered Voters By Party

Among Democrats, including those who said they lean Democratic, 39.4 percent said the immigration issue is "very important" to their vote, 45.5 percent said "somewhat important," 11.4 percent said "not that important" and 3.2 percent said "don't know." Among Republicans and those leaning Republican, 55.1 percent said "very important," 36.5 percent said "somewhat important," 7.8 percent said "not that important" and 0.6 percent said "don't know."

Views on immigration policy were strikingly similar for both parties. When asked about immigration policy, 56.9 percent of Democrats favored earned citizenship, 22.3 percent favored deportation, 11.1 percent favored a guest-worker program and 4.2 percent favored amnesty. Of Republicans, 56.7 percent favored earned citizenship, 23.6 percent favored deportation, 13.8 percent favored a guest-worker program and 3.2 percent favored amnesty.

Likely Caucus Attendees

Likely caucus goers from both parties agreed that candidates' immigration stance is important.

As for immigration policy, differences in opinion were slightly more varied among likely caucus goers than the voting population at large. Likely Republican caucus goers considered the issue more important than likely Democratic caucus goers did. Republicans were slightly less in favor of earned citizenship and more likely to support deportation than their Democratic counterparts. Of likely caucus goers from both parties, men were more likely to support deportation; women were more likely to support earned citizenship.

Still, a majority of likely caucus goers from both parties favored earned citizenship. For that reason, UI political scientists said candidates who present a less "hardline position" on immigration -- providing some way for undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship rather than being deported -- may be looked upon more favorably by caucus attendees from both parties.

Subsample Of Democratic Caucus Goers

Among likely Democratic caucus goers, 38.4 percent said immigration is "very important" to their vote, 44.6 percent said "somewhat important," 13.1 percent said "not that important" and 3.8 percent didn't know.

When asked about immigration policy, 56.9 percent of likely Democratic caucus goers favored earned citizenship, 19.3 percent favored deportation, 14.5 percent favored a guest-worker program and 5.2 percent favored amnesty.

Subsample Of Republican Caucus Goers

Of likely Republican caucus goers, 62.8 percent said immigration is "very important," 31.9 percent said "somewhat important" and 5.3 percent said "not that important."

Of likely Republican caucus goers, 53.5 percent favored earned citizenship. Another 28.3 percent favored deportation, 13.9 percent favored a guest-worker program and only 1.1 percent favored amnesty.

Sample Characteristics

Of the 1,290 poll participants 32 percent were Republican, 36 percent Democrat and 32 percent Independent, which closely matched the composition of Iowa voters. Of the full sample, 508 were identified as likely caucus goers. Of the likely caucus goers, 298 plan to attend the Democratic caucus while 178 plan to attend the Republican caucus, with the remainder undecided. The sample contained 97 percent white respondents, and 3 percent nonwhite. Only 1.5 percent of the sample was Latino. Given the small number of nonwhites, results were reported for the full sample only, without breakdowns for ethnic categories.

The margin of error was +/- 3 percent for the full sample, +/- 4.4 percent for all likely caucus goers, +/- 5.5 percent for the Democratic caucus subsample and +/- 6.5 percent for the Republican caucus subsample. Results were weighted for gender to match the gender breakdown of statewide registered voters (52.8 percent female, 47.2 percent male).

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: UI political scientists: David Redlawsk, 319-335-2352 (office), or 319-400-1134 (cell),, or Caroline Tolbert, 319-335-2360 (office); graduate student collaborator: Benjamin Knoll,; University News Services contact: Nicole Riehl, 319-384-0070,