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Poll shows immigration support

Citizenship path, border steps get strong backing

– Americans have given President Obama a major ratings boost on immigration as he and Congress debate major immigration reforms, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

By a margin of five percentage points – 49 percent to 44 percent – slightly more Americans now approve than disapprove of Obama on immigration. In July, Obama was deep underwater, with just 38 percent offering positive ratings and 52 percent negative.

Even after the shift, though, Obama’s immigration marks continue to trail his overall approval rating, which stood at 55 percent in a January Post-ABC poll.

In addition, two key elements of current reform discussions receive even broader support than Obama: 83 percent support stricter border security, and 55 percent back a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

The poll’s results could be both another indicator of Obama’s post-election bounce and a change in attitudes about immigration.

Obama’s overall job approval rating climbed five percentage points since October, and there is little reason to believe immigration played much of a role in driving that up, given the fact that the “fiscal cliff” negotiations and gun control dominated the political zeitgeist from November to early January.

But perhaps most noteworthy is that Obama’s solid-but-not-spectacular ratings mark a major change in how Americans have rated recent presidents – Republican or Democrat – on immigration.

George W. Bush’s approval ratings on immigration ranged from just 29 percent to 34 percent in Post-ABC polls from 2004 to 2007, and Bill Clinton earned just a 28 percent approval on immigration in a 1994 USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, after which pollsters stopped asking that question.