Over the weekend, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) – a hard-liner on immigration reform – repeatedly dodged the question of what he would do about the 11 million illegal immigrants living in this country if he were president.
While calling for tougher security along the U.S.-Mexican border is an easy response for Cruz and many of the other Republican presidential candidates, whether to deport millions of people living illegally in this country or offer them a path to legal status or citizenship is much tougher.
A new survey by Quinnipiac University of voter attitudes in Iowa released on Monday shows a major rift on immigration policy – both among likely Republican caucus goers and between Republican and Democratic voters in a state that will hold the first caucuses of the 2016 presidential season.
Among likely Republican caucus goers, 46 percent say that illegal immigrants should be required to leave, while 34 percent say illegal immigrants should stay and be offered a path to citizenship. Seventeen percent believe illegal immigrants should stay, but with no path to citizenship.
Among likely Democratic caucus goers, 83 percent say illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay and apply for citizenship while nine percent say they should stay, but with no path to citizenship. Just eight percent of Democrats say undocumented immigrants should be required to leave.
In a crowded field of 16 announced GOP presidential candidates and more to come, the outcome of early contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina will be crucial to the winnowing process. And if voter attitudes in Iowa are indicative of the differences between Republicans and Democrats headed into the campaign season, there is “a yawning attitude gap,” according to the analysis accompanying the Quinnipiac University poll.
Among the polls other findings:
Income inequality. Likely Republican caucus-goers say 70 percent to 25 percent that the federal government should not pursue policies to reduce the income gap between wealthy and less wealthy Americans while Democratic caucus-goers are diametrically opposed-- 91 percent to 6 percent.
Both parties have voiced concern about the plight of the middle class and wage stagnancy that has widened the gap between the ultra-rich and lower income Americans, although they would approach the task in very different ways. The Quinnipiac poll didn’t specify proposals for addressing the problem, such as raising taxes on the rich, boosting the minimum wage or subsidizing college tuition for lower income Americans.
The war against ISIS. The parties showed a much smaller gap on this issue. By a margin of 72 percent to 23 percent, Republicans support sending U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS. By contrast, Democrats are opposed to that, 63 percent to 29 percent.
President Obama has said he is opposed to committing additional ground troops to battling the Islamic jihadists in the Middle East, and instead has pursued a strategy of bombing ISIS targets and providing training and military assistance to the Iraqi government and friendly rebel groups fighting the terrorists. However, Senate Armed Services Committee Chair John McCain (R-AZ) and other GOP defense hawks say Obama’s approach isn’t working, and they have pushed for the deployment of ground troops to try to turn the tide of the war.
“Iowa, with the caucuses that kick off the 2016 election, is a perfect example of just how differently Democrats and Republicans see completely different worlds,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a statement.
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