Washington: More than 6 in 10 Americans now favor allowing illegal immigrants to eventually become US citizens, a major increase in support driven by a turnaround in Republicans` opinions after the 2012 elections.
The finding, in a new Associated Press-GfK poll, comes as the Republican Party seeks to increase its meager support among Latino voters, who turned out in large numbers to help-re-elect President Barack Obama in November.
Emboldened by the overwhelming Hispanic backing and by shifting attitudes on immigration, Obama has made overhauling laws about who can legally live in the US a centerpiece of his second-term agenda.
In the coming weeks, he is expected to aggressively push for ways to create an eventual pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in this country.
The poll results suggest that the public overall, not just Hispanics, will back his efforts. Sixty-two percent of Americans now favor providing a way for illegal immigrants in the US to become citizens, an increase from just 50 percent in the summer of 2010, the last time the AP polled on the question.
In an even earlier poll, in 2009, some 47 percent supported a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
Further boosting the president on the issue, Democrats have opened a 41 percent to 34 percent advantage as the party more trusted to handle immigration, the first time they have held a significant edge on the matter in AP-GfK polling.
In October 2010, Republicans held a slight edge over Democrats, 46 percent to 41 percent, on the question of who was more trusted on immigration.
Much of the increase in support for a path to eventual citizenship has come among Republicans. A majority in the Republican party 53 percent now favor the change. That is up a striking 22 percentage points from 2010. Seventy-two percent of Democrats and 55 percent of independents like the idea, similar to 2010.
The findings suggest that those Republican lawmakers weighing support for eventual legal status for illegal immigrants could be rewarded politically not just by Democrats and independents but also by some in their own party as well.