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Guest Column: Tea Party vs. GOP on Immigration

It's not that Tea Party self-identifiers have different positions on immigration than regular old Republicans. They just feel more strongly about it.

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I wrote about the conflicting opinions about immigration among Texas Republicans earlier, and I don’t want to beat a dead horse. But as a short addendum, the table below looks at the results of a different set of immigration items from the May 2011 survey, cross-tabulated with the survey item that provided poll respondents with the option of identifying with the Tea Party label instead of with the major parties (see this column from June for the wording of the question). While the Tea Party contingent seems to pull the party rightward in some areas, especially fiscal policy, their views on immigration are a mixed bag. They are fairly indistinguishable from Republicans in some areas, though are more restrictive; they are more intense in their views in a couple of other areas.

For the most part, the Tea Party attitudes toward the immigration items are much like those of the Republican stalwarts, which is no great surprise given that a large majority of those who choose to identify with the Tea Party in our hypothetical matchup would otherwise self-identify as Republican.  

There are some signs of the rightward pull associated with the Tea Party in other areas. The share of Tea Party identifiers opposed to the idea of a comprehensive immigration reform that would include a so-called “path to citizenship” is larger than the share of Republicans, and their opposition is more intense. Seventy-two percent of Tea Party identifiers strongly disapprove of such a proposal, compared to 58 percent of Republican identifiers who strongly disapprove. (By comparison, only 16 percent of self-identified Democrats strongly opposed such comprehensive reform.) The Tea Partiers were also somewhat more opposed to policies associated with the now infamous sanctuary cities. These results were echoed in the prominence of Tea Party activists among the signatories of a recent open letter to Gov. Rick Perry asking him to call another special session to address immigration issues.

Support for Immigration Policy Proposals by Party Identification with a Tea Party Option (University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, May 2011)
Passing a law that would allow illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to gain legal resident status if they join the military. Rep Dem Tea DK Total
Strongly support 15% 41% 18% 19% 25%
Somewhat support 37% 34% 38% 31% 35%
Somewhat oppose 17% 6% 13% 13% 11%
Strongly oppose 31% 15% 31% 27% 25%
Don't know 1% 4% 1% 11% 5%

Passing a law that would allow illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to gain legal resident status if they go to college.  Rep Dem Tea DK Total
Strongly support 6% 37% 3% 10% 17%
Somewhat support 16% 26% 16% 18% 20%
Somewhat oppose 12% 10% 11% 18% 13%
Strongly oppose 64% 21% 68% 44% 46%
Don't know 2% 7% 2% 10% 6%

 Passing a comprehensive immigration overhaul at the federal level that would provide a pathway to citizenship for most illegal immigrants currently living in the United States. Rep Dem Tea DK Total
Strongly support 5% 39% 7% 13% 19%
Somewhat support 21% 27% 8% 16% 18%
Somewhat oppose 14% 12% 11% 19% 14%
Strongly oppose 58% 16% 72% 44% 44%
Don't know 2% 6% 3% 9% 5%

 Which of the following comes closest to your view on whether local law enforcement officials should enforce federal immigration laws? Rep Dem Tea DK Total
Local law enforcement officials should be required to actively enforce federal immigration laws. 55% 22% 52% 39% 39%
Local law enforcement officials should be allowed to enforce federal immigration laws, but it should not be a primary responsibility of theirs. 34% 39% 44% 36% 39%
Cities and counties should be allowed to restrict local law enforcement officials from enforcing federal immigration laws. 8% 24% 3% 9% 12%
Don't know 3% 15% 2% 16% 10

Poll information:  N=800 self-identified voters.  Data gathered May 11-18, 2011.  MOE =/- 3.46

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