“If I were in the White House, I would be pretty pleased about this,” said Charles Franklin, a University of Wisconsin political science professor who studies public opinion. “It does suggest pretty strongly that the president has the opportunity to drive public opinion on this.” Arizona State University professor Bruce Merrill said immigration was the first issue he had seen in 20 years that did not clearly break along partisan lines. “Conservative Democrats don’t feel any different from conservative Republicans,” he said, with both camps strongly opposing the idea of rewarding people who broke the law to enter the country. The AP-Ipsos survey of 1,003 adults was conducted Tuesday through Thursday. Debate is swirling in Congress over a proposal that would legalize many illegal immigrants in the United States and expand guest worker programs for an estimated 400,000 immigrants each year. Two-thirds of those surveyed think illegal immigrants fill jobs that most Americans do not want, the poll found. But the survey found greater ambiguity on whether illegal immigrants are good or bad for American society. Fifty-one percent said illegal immigrants mostly make a contribution to society and 42 percent said they were mostly a drain. Likewise, there was deep division on how serious a crime it should be enter the country illegally. Fifty-one percent thought it should be considered a “minor offense” and 47 percent considered it a “serious criminal offense.” “Americans are quite divided, but it seems as if they are looking for a solution that involves some sort of legal documentation,” said Brian Sanderoff, president of Research and Polling Inc., based in Albuquerque, N.M. He predicted that as the issue gets more attention in coming months, more Americans will start forming strong opinions. Both pro- and anti-immigration interests predicted opinion would move in their direction as people become better informed. Michelle Waslin, director of immigration policy research for the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group, said that as people consider the specific requirements that immigrants would have to meet to obtain legal status, they are more supportive of the idea. Paul Egan, director of government relations for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors stricter immigration rules, said that when people fully understand the potential implications of the guest worker program, they will be more likely to oppose it. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. OK TO STAY: An AP-Ipsos poll found that more than one-half of those questioned – 56 percent – are open to allowing undocumented workers to obtain some temporary legal status so they can stay in the U.S. FOLLOW THE RULES: A smaller segment – 41 percent – opposes offering any kind of legal status to those who did not play by the rules to get here. CAPITAL BATTLE: Congress is debating a proposal that would legalize many illegal immigrants in the United States and expand guest worker programs. – Associated Press Some demographics and details about the AP-Ipsos poll on attitudes about immigration. The results are taken from a poll of 1,003 adults conducted Tuesday through Thursday by Ipsos, an international polling firm. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. TEMPORARY WORKER PROGRAM: Some 56 percent of those polled said they favor allowing immigrants with jobs who are in the country illegally to apply for legal, temporary worker status. Democrats, at 62 percent, were more likely than Republicans, 52 percent, to support that proposal. Support decreases with age: 65 percent of those age 18-29 supported it, compared with 54 percent of those 35 and older. Support increases with education. Some 65 percent of those with college degrees support it, while 54 percent of those with a high school education or less oppose it. Support is higher in urban areas, 57 percent, and suburban areas, 59 percent, than in rural areas, 47 percent. CONTRIBUTION OR DRAIN: Some 51 percent of those polled said illegal immigrants mostly make a contribution to American society, while 47 percent said illegal immigrants are a drain. Also, 61 percent of those age 18-34 were more likely to say illegal immigrants make a positive contribution, while 46 percent of those 35 and over felt that way. Those most likely to say illegal immigrants make a contribution are: people with college degrees, 64 percent; Democrats, 62 percent compared with 41 percent of Republicans; those earning more than $75,000 a year, 61 percent; young people from 18-34, 61 percent; and nonwhites, 61 percent. Those most likely to say illegal immigrants are a drain: people in rural areas, 53 percent; Republicans, 51 percent compared with 33 percent of Democrats; those over 65, 50 percent; people with income under $25,000 a year, 47 percent. WOULD A FENCE REDUCE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION: Two-thirds of the general population say a fence would not reduce the number of illegal immigrants. Majorities in all groups express a lack of confidence that a fence would make a difference. – Associated Press160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WASHINGTON – Americans are divided about whether illegal immigrants help or hurt the country, a poll finds. More than one-half of those questioned are open to allowing undocumented workers to obtain some temporary legal status so they can stay in the United States. At the same time, people doubt that erecting a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border could help to fix such a complex and enduring problem, an AP-Ipsos poll found. Two-thirds do not think it would work. “You can’t go and round up 11 million people and ship them out of the country,” said Robert Kelly. The Chicago lawyer is among the 56 percent of Americans who favor offering some kind of legal status. “It just isn’t practical,” he said. A smaller but still significant share – 41 percent – opposes offering any kind of legal status, giving voice to a law-and-order mind-set that bristles at the notion of officially recognizing those who did not play by the rules to get here. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event “Illegal is criminal,” said Louella Kelly, a 65-year-old grandmother from Round Rock, Texas. She said her 16-year-old granddaughter has had a hard time finding part-time work because of all the jobs taken by those who are illegally in the country. “If we’re going to give them amnesty, then why don’t we give amnesty to all the people who break out of jail?” Political analysts see an opening in such poll results for President George W. Bush, who supports a temporary guest-worker program. The Republican Party is divided. Business interests want to preserve their access to foreign workers as a cheap labor force, while many conservatives would rather get tough on illegal immigrants. The survey found 62 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans favored temporary worker status.