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Support broadens among Americans for Arizona's tough illegal-immigrant law, while opposition sags

May 12, 2010 |  9:56 am

Border fence

President Obama is opposed to the strict new illegal-immigrant law in Arizona. But a new poll now finds that he is in a shrinking minority of Americans and Democrats who do.

A new Pew Research Center Poll finds fully 73% of the country thinks police requesting immigration status documents is fine, while 67% think detaining someone for a status check is OK.

The poll reports that, overall, 59% approve of the law's broad provisions, while less than a third (32%) now oppose them. That is up significantly from a similar poll earlier this month.

Democrats, a large majority of whom originally opposed the law, are now....

... evenly split 45-46% approve-disapprove. The number of Democrats supporting the measure has been growing as more information spreads about its legal provisions and safeguards.

Republicans overwhelmingly approve the law (85%) signed by Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in frustration over federal inaction on securing the state's borders with Mexico. A solid majority of independents (64%) also support the controversial measure. (See several related items below, including the law's full text.)

Even among young people, where support for the law is weakest, a majority support requiring people to produce immigration documents upon request by police.

Obama has called Arizona's state action "misguided," while agreeing that broad immigration reforms are needed. However, he's added that he does not see the "appetite" for addressing the problems after his rancorous intra-party healthcare debate. Nor has he taken additional steps to secure the borders.

The issue, involving fears of rising crime, assaults and illegal drug trading, has the potential to become an emotional one in this year's evolving midterm election campaigns and not to the advantage of congressional incumbents, most of whom are Democrats.

Fifty-four percent of Americans in the new Pew Poll disapprove of Obama's job performance on  immigration while those who approve have waned from 31% last November to 29% last month to 25% today.

Again, Obama's Democratic party is now split (38% disapprove, 37% approve). Predictably, 75% of Republicans disapprove of his job in that area. But of potential future concern for the White House is that, among independents, a crucial leg of his national support in 2008, more than twice as many disapprove of his immigration handling (57%) as approve (25%).

Related items:

See for yourself: Complete text of the Arizona law and Executive Order

Forget Obama, Arizonans like their new law

Arizona Gov. Brewer explains signing nation's toughest immigration bill

So what does the new Arizona law actually do?

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signs controversial law in state melting pot

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Border fence in Nogales, Ariz. Credit: AFP / Getty Images.

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