National Cathedral
National Cathedral


A new Zogby poll shows vast differences on immigration issues between church leaders and the people sitting in their pews. Several months ago, leaders from the National Association of Evangelicals and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops supported a mass amnesty before the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, but the majority of their followers prefer an approach of tougher enforcement instead.

In contrast to many national religious leaders who are lobbying for increases in immigration numbers, a new Zogby poll of likely voters who belong to the same religious communities finds strong support for reducing overall immigration. Moreover, the poll finds that members strongly disagree with their leaders’ contention that more immigrant workers need to be allowed into the country. Also, most parishioners and congregants advocate for more enforcement to cause illegal workers to go home, while most religious leaders are calling for putting illegal immigrants on a path to U.S. citizenship. The survey of Catholic, mainline Protestant, born-again Protestant, and Jewish voters used neutral language and was one of the largest polls on immigration ever done.

-- Center of Immigration Studies

The poll surveyed 42,026 adults, representing the American adult population. With so many surveyed, the poll's margin of error is just +/-0.5%.

Among the findings:

Most members of religious denominations do not feel that illegal immigration is caused by limits on legal immigration, as many religious leaders do; instead, members feel it’s due to a lack of enforcement.

  • Catholics: Just 11 percent said illegal immigration was caused by not letting in enough legal immigrants; 78 percent said it was caused by inadequate enforcement efforts.
  • Mainline Protestants: 18 percent said not enough legal immigration; 78 percent said inadequate
  • Born-Again Protestants: 9 percent said not enough legal immigration; 85 percent said inadequate enforcement.
  • Jews: 21 percent said not enough legal immigration; 60 percent said inadequate enforcement.

Unlike religious leaders who argue that more unskilled immigrant workers are needed, most members think there are plenty of Americans to do such work.

  • Catholics: 12 percent said legal immigration should be increased to fill such jobs; 69 percent said there are plenty of Americans available to do such jobs, employers just need to pay more.
  • Mainline Protestants: 10 percent said increase immigration; 73 percent said plenty of Americans available.
  • Born-Again Protestants: 7 percent said increase immigration; 75 percent said plenty of Americans available.
  • Jews: 16 percent said increase immigration; 61 percent said plenty of Americans available.

When asked to choose between enforcement that would cause illegal immigrants to go home over time or a conditional pathway to citizenship, most members of religious communities choose enforcement.

  • Catholics: 64 percent support enforcement to encourage illegals to go home; 23 percent support conditional legalization.
  • Mainline Protestants: 64 percent support enforcement; 24 percent support conditional legalization.
  • Born-Again Protestants: 76 percent support enforcement; 12 percent support conditional
  • Jews: 43 percent support enforcement; 40 percent support conditional legalization.

In contrast to many religious leaders, most members think immigration is too high.

  • Catholics: 69 percent said immigration is too high; 4 percent said too low; 14 percent just right.
  • Mainline Protestants: 72 percent said it is too high; 2 percent said too low; 11 percent just right.
  • Born-Again Protestants: 78 percent said it is too high; 3 percent said too low; 9 percent just right.
  • Jews: 50 percent said it is too high; 5 percent said is too low; 22 percent just right.
For more information, see the full report by the Center for Immigration Studies and read Roy's blog.
religious leaders

Updated: Tue, Dec 29th 2009 @ 9:27am EST