With thousands of undocumented immigrant minors crossing the nation’s southern border in recent months, the percentage of Americans citing immigration as the top problem has surged to 17% this month, up from 5% in June, and the highest seen since 2006. As a result, immigration now virtually ties “dissatisfaction with government,” at 16%, as the primary issue Americans think of when asked to name the country’s top problem.
This is not the first time that immigration has spiked in the public’s consciousness. Most recently, Gallup found the issue increasing to 10% in 2010, at a time when a new immigration law in Arizona was making news. And prior to that, it increased twice in 2006 to 15% or higher, amid congressional debate over immigration reform.
Signaling that public mentions of immigration today could be stemming more from concern about illegal immigration than from support for immigration reform, mentions of the issue are significantly higher among Republicans (23%) than Democrats (11%). Gallup polling earlier this year showed Republicans with a preference for focusing on sealing the border, while Democrats prioritized addressing the status of illegal immigrants already here.