Support for an immigration reform plan that includes a pathway to citizenship for those in the country illegally has plummeted within the past decade among white evangelicals, who are the only religious demographic to oppose a proposal that has been backed by Republican and Democratic presidents, according to a new survey.
The Public Religion Research Institute poll found that 62 percent of Americans believe there should be a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally, provided they meet certain requirements. Although Americans’ views on the issue have changed little since 2013 when the same question was asked – back then, 63 percent supported it – the opinions of white evangelicals have changed dramatically.
Less than half of white evangelicals – 47 percent – support a pathway to citizenship, a nearly double-digit plunge from the 56 percent who backed it in 2013. Among white evangelicals who attend church weekly, support is even lower, 45 percent, and has fallen 13 points from 2013 (58 percent).
White mainline Protestants (59 percent), black Protestants (75 percent), white Catholics (54 percent) and Hispanic Catholics (70 percent) all back a pathway to citizenship.
“With the exception of white evangelical Protestants, majorities of all religious groups support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants,” PRRI said in an analysis.
Presidents Bush and Obama supported a pathway to citizenship, as does President Biden. President Trump, too, backed a pathway to citizenship, although his plan focused only on younger immigrants living in the country illegally.
On another question, nearly two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) support allowing immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children – “Dreamers” – to be given a pathway to citizenship. White evangelicals (47 percent) and Republicans (44 percent) are the only groups that do not support such a plan.
Meanwhile, white evangelicals also are the least likely religious demographic to agree with the statement that the “growing number of newcomers from other countries strengthens American society.” Only 35 percent of white evangelicals agree with the statement, compared to 46 percent of white Catholics, 46 percent of white mainline Protestants, 69 percent of black Protestants, 61 percent of Hispanic Catholics. Among all Americans, 56 percent agree with the statement.
The survey was released on February 3.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Andrey Popov
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.