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Immigration reform survey shows majority support within most faith groups
North Carolina Natura Werm
Candidates for U.S. Citizenship take the oath of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony Wednesday, at Tryon Palace Historic Sites and Gardens in New Bern, N.C. - photo by Associated Press


White evangelical Protestants are moving against the grain in the immigration debate, dropping in support of reform by 8 percentage points, according to a new survey released by the Brookings Institution and the Public Religion Research Institute.

The poll showed that white evangelicals now belong to the only American religious group without a majority in favor of citizenship options for illegal immigrants.

"The drop in white evangelical support comes as Americans' overall views about immigrants have grown more positive," Lauren Markoe reported for Religion News Service. The survey showed that 60 percent of Americans support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, compared with 48 percent of white evangelical Protestants.

Markoe quoted PRRI chief executive Robert Jones's explanation of white evangelical outliers: "Evangelicals are not only religious people, but also overwhelmingly Republican," he said.

Fifty-one percent of Republicans favor a path to citizenship, compared with 70 percent of Democrats.

The new survey, titled "What Americans Wants From Immigration Reform in 2014," is an update to the 2013 study from the two organizations on religion, values and immigration reform, Brookings explained.

Both organizations released executive summaries of the study's findings, highlighting results from reconnecting with 1,538 of the survey's 2013 respondents. Though these synopses mostly focused on the Republican-Democrat divide and other political implications, there was also information available about religious groups.

"Majorities of all religious groups, with the exception of white evangelical Protestants, support a path to citizenship (for illegal immigrants), including roughly 6-in-10 white mainline Protestants (58 percent), minority Protestants (62 percent) and Catholics (63 percent), and more than two-thirds (68 percent) of religiously unaffiliated Americans," PRRI's fact sheet stated.

Additionally, PRRI reported that religious voters want candidates who support a path to citizenship: "Among all major religious groups, at least twice as many voters say they would be less likely to support a candidate who opposes a path to citizenship as say they would be more likely."

Forty-five percent of white evangelical Protestants would be less likely to vote for a candidate who opposes reform, compared with 22 percent who would support such a candidate.

Jones reflected on the survey's results in The Wall Street Journal: "Given how polarized our current political environment is, one of the things that stands out is this is a major issue in the country where there is actual agreement across partisan and religious lines," he said.

He was interviewed for a Deseret News article about the 2013 study. Acknowledging support for immigration among faith groups, he said, "Values are most powerful when they have general and religious resonance."

NPR's Jeremy Hobson, host of "Here & Now," interviewed Jones about the report Tuesday afternoon. The two men discussed the disparity between American interest in immigration issues and Congress' willingness to pursue reform.

PRRI and Brookings released the survey results with a two-hour webcast featuring E.J. Dionne and William Galston. Brookings has made a recording of the announcement available online.

The full report is available through the Public Religion Research Institute.

Email: Twitter: @kelsey_dallas


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