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Poll: Most Voters Support Trump’s Merit-Based Immigration Bill


Voters support most of the provisions in a bill backed by President Donald Trump that would move the U.S. to a merit-based immigration system and slash legal immigration levels by nearly 50 percent over the next decade, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The RAISE Act, sponsored by Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, would dramatically curtail family-based migration in favor of giving priority to high-skilled immigrants. It would also end the diversity visa lottery program and cap annual refugee admissions at 50,000.

Some of those provisions received support from more than half of voters surveyed by POLITICO/Morning Consult, while other aspects of the bill are backed by significant pluralities.

A majority of voters — 58 percent — agree with limiting the number of refugees offered permanent residency. A slightly higher share — 60 percent — favor establishing a “points system” that assigns value based on criteria such as education, English proficiency and prospective earnings in the U.S.

Other aspects of the bill enjoy less overall support, but those provisions still have more backers than opponents. Just under half — 48 percent — of voters support reducing the number of legal immigrants by half over the next decade, compared to 39 percent who oppose the cut. As for family-based chain migration, 45 percent want to block U.S. citizens and permanent residents from petitioning for green cards for extended family members, while 39 percent oppose ending the practice.

An English language proficiency requirement garners the most support — 62 percent of voters say it should be a factor in choosing who can legally immigrate to the U.S.

The RAISE Act generated instant controversy when it was formally introduced last week. At a White House press briefing, Trump administration senior adviser Stephen Miller sparred with several reporters who suggested that the bill was motivated by racial and ethnic animus. Miller and the bill’s Senate backers argueit will help poor and and low-skilled American workers by reducing the pool of immigrants competing with them for jobs.

As the POLITICO poll shows, voters appear to be more comfortable with the RAISE Act than Washington media reporting would suggest.

“Even the more controversial provisions in this legislation receive support from a plurality of voters,” said Morning Consult co-founder and Chief Research Officer Kyle Dropp. “The reason for this is ostensibly that Republican support is more consolidated than Democratic opposition. For example, 73 percent of Republican voters support reducing the number of legal immigrants, compared to 57 percent of Democrats who oppose that idea.”

The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll was conducted Aug. 3 through Aug. 6. It surveyed 1,992 registered voters and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

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