ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
President Barack Obama’s handling of the Central American immigration crisis isn’t selling well in New Mexico, according to a Journal flash poll.
More than half of the registered New Mexico voters surveyed — 55 percent — said they disapproved of the president’s handling of the situation. Only 28 percent said they approved and 16 percent were unsure.
Tens of thousands of immigrants from Central America have recently entered the U.S. illegally, many of them children, and many reportedly fleeing violence in their own countries.
Obama’s response has been e volving. But last week, just before the Journal flash poll was conducted, he asked Congress to appropriate $3.7 billion to address the issue by increasing border security and bolstering resources for the backed-up administrative courts that handle immigration issues.
However, the president also warned that the thousands of Central American immigrants, including the many children, are “unlikely” to stay in the U.S.
It was after the polling concluded that Obama’s homeland security secretary, Jeh Johnson, delivered one of the administration’s bluntest statements yet on what’s widely been called an immigration crisis.
“Our message to those who come illegally is we will send you back,” Johnson said at a federal detention center in Artesia on Friday.
Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc., said many voters might not be familiar with the subtleties of Obama’s handling of the immigration surge. The Journal flash poll question did not provide background on the issue.
The poll question was: “Do you approve or disapprove of how the Obama administration is handling the thousands of Central American immigrants, including children, who have recently crossed the border into the United States?”
Sanderoff said some of the registered voters surveyed might have formed their opinions based on the broader debate over federal immigration policies – or the lack of them.
In a Journal story last week, New Mexico Gov. Su sana Martinez said Obama and Congress are to blame for the immigration crisis, calling the situation “a direct failure of gridlocked Washington.”
Sanderoff said that, while the Journal flash poll question “asks specially about the handling of the issue, I still think that some people are just frustrated with the occurrence itself, just that they have crossed the border, that no one seemed to anticipate this sharp rise of Central American immigrants.”
Nationally, Obama has drawn criticism from the political left and right for his handling of the issue. While some conservatives say he isn’t doing enough to immediately deport the Central American immigrants, some liberals say he has been too aggressive.
In the Journal flash poll, Republican respondents were the most likely to disapprove of Obama’s handling of the recent immigration issue. Seventy-five percent said they disapproved, while only 12 percent of Republicans said they backed Obama’s efforts.
Democrats were more closely split. About 42 percent said they disapproved of Obama’s handling of the issue, while 39 percent said they supported the president.
“All the Democrats didn’t automatically just say they approve of the president’s handling of the immigrants, which shows what a tough issue it is,” Sanderoff said.
Regionally, voters on New Mexico’s east side overwhelmingly disapproved of Obama’s stance, with 75 percent objecting and just 15 percent in support. That region of the state includes Artesia, where hundreds of the apprehended Central American immigrants are being detained.
In the state’s southwestern corner, the region closest to the Mexican border, voters thought slightly higher of Obama’s approach. About 48 percent said they disapproved of Obama’s handling of the situation, while 30 percent said they supported Obama’s policies.
Hispanic voters in New Mexico were more likely to support Obama than Anglo voters, although 50 percent or more in each ethnicity group disapproved, the poll found. About 35 percent of Hispanics said they approved of Obama’s handling of the issue, while 24 percent of Anglos said they approved.
The Journal flash poll was conducted July 10 and is based on a random sample of 557 registered voters statewide.
Seventy-seven percent of the interviews were conducted via landline telephones, using a recorded interactive voice response system. The remaining 23 percent of the interviews were conducted via cellphone, using professional telephone interviewers. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.