youth opinions of immigration policy

(from an airplane) Last week, CIRCLE released our analysis of young people’s views of the immigration debate. The headline was not surprising. Only 8% of young adults chose immigration as their top issue in 2012, but those young people were overwhelmingly on one side of the debate, wanting to create paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. More than twice as many (16.8%) young adults from recent immigrant backgrounds chose immigration as their top issue. And among young immigrants of Latino background, 29.0% chose it. Thus there is a youth constituency for immigration reform–and hardly any  youth opposition to it–but it is mainly a top issue for Latino immigrant youth.

One thing that surprised me a little was some misinformation about the candidates’ positions on the DREAM Act–or else a miscommunication caused by our survey question.* Forty-two percent of the first- and second-generation respondents thought that only Obama (not Romney) would veto the DREAM Act. When combined with the respondents who thought that both 2012 candidates would veto the DREAM Act, nearly half believed that Obama was against it. Just about one quarter of recent immigrant youth (23.1%) and other youth (27.9%) correctly thought that only Mitt Romney would veto the DREAM Act. Nevertheless, the immigrant youth were notably favorable to Obama and opposed to Romney.

One possibility: our question was too complicated or obscure, and people misunderstood it. But another possibility is that people actually do not know that Obama favored the DREAM Act. I can see that happening because he is the president and yet no DREAM Act has passed. This means that Obama could gain youth support by signing legislation that included elements of the DREAM Act. It also means that Republicans do not have as serious a disadvantage with young immigrant voters as might be expected. Their candidate’s official opposition to the DREAM Act does not seem widely known.

*Which 2012 presidential candidate argued that The DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act rewards criminal activity by undocumented residents and that he will veto it should the DREAM Act passes

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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.