Arizona Immigration Law Has Broad Support Across U.S., New Polls Show

BY Quinn Bowman  May 13, 2010 at 12:15 PM EDT


Polls from the Pew Research Center and the Wall Street Journal/NBC show broad support for the new Arizona immigration law that critics said would lead to racial profiling of Hispanics.

The Pew Poll, conducted in early May, shows that more than 60 percent of Americans support the Arizona law’s separate provisions, which give police increased authority to question and detain people they suspect of being in the country illegally.

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President Obama has condemned the law, considered the strictest anti-illegal immigration law in the country.

Pew Research Center President Andrew Kohut said he was surprised by how popular the elements of the law are.

“What’s gong on here is while the public has had moderate views on dealing with the immigration problem, like support for a path to citizenship, they’ve long thought that more has to be done to protect to borders and to get better enforcement,” Kohut said.

Kohut said he was particularly surprised about the level of support among Democrats. Fifty percent of Democrats said they support the law provision allowing police to question anyone they think may be in the country illegally.

Pew’s poll also found that the president’s standing on immigration has continued to slip:

As has been the case since last fall, the public is highly critical of Barack Obama’s handling of immigration policy. Just 25% approve of the way Obama is handling the issue, while more than twice as many (54%) disapprove. That is little changed from last month (29% approve) and down slightly from last November (31%).

The poll also revealed that younger Americans are less supportive of the Arizona immigration law than their elders. Among people younger than 30, 47 percent said they disapprove of the law while 45 percent said they approve of it. Majorities of older age groups — including nearly three-fourths of those 65 and older – approve.

A similar poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal and NBC tells a similar story: 64 percent of American adults support the Arizona law.

But the poll also reveals a stark difference of opinion: 70 percent of Hispanics said they were somewhat or strongly opposed to the law, while just 34 percent of total respondents said the same thing.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the Department of Justice may file a lawsuit challenging the law on the basis that it could lead to civil rights violations.