Home>Governor>Support for immigrant drivers’ licenses rises as residents grow agnostic on immigration

Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. (Photo: NJ Globe file photo).

Support for immigrant drivers’ licenses rises as residents grow agnostic on immigration

Fewer New Jerseyans view illegal immigration as a serious issue, poll finds

By Nikita Biryukov, May 10 2021 11:00 am

Support for providing undocumented immigrants with some form of drivers’ licenses has nearly doubled over the past 12 years, a Monmouth University poll released Monday found.

Most New Jerseyans, 57%, said they supported such a policy, up from just 33% in 2009. Opposition, meanwhile, has dropped by about a third, falling to 41% from the 62% marked 12 years ago.

As of earlier this month, New Jersey law allows immigrants in the country illegally to apply for a driver’s license using an individual taxpayer ID number or social security number.

The Motor Vehicle Commission is expected to begin accepting applications, coupled with affidavits stating their inability to secure a social security number, from individuals who do not meet those requirements next month.

“The New Jersey driver’s license available to undocumented immigrants may have fewer limitations than were envisioned when Monmouth first polled on this topic over a decade ago, but the wholesale shift in public opinion since that time is undeniable,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The shift in popularity is fueled by a swell of support among the state’s Democrats, 77% of whom backed driver’s license for undocumented individuals, compared to just 39% 12 years ago.

Independent support grew at a similar, if less rapid, rate, jumping from 29% in 2009 to 51% in Monday’s poll. Republican support, though, remained largely fixed, rising to 31% from the 27% recorded years ago.

New Jersey residents also favor allowing undocumented immigrants to attend the state’s public colleges and university’s at in-state tuition rates. Half backed the policy, while 24% said they should pay out-of-state rates and 22% said they should be kept out of public higher education institutions.

Only one fifth of residents supported undocumented immigrants paying in-state rates in 2009, while 39% said they should be barred from public universities altogether.

The shift in support for in-state tuition rates was also fueled mainly by changing views among the state’s Democratic and independent voters, though Republican support for the issue increased by 50% over the past 12 years, from 18% to 27%.

Despite the growth, residents are still split on whether undocumented students should be allowed to receive grants to attend school from the state. Though the state began allowing the practice in 2018, 47% opposed the practice, and 48% supported it.

Those results were split along party lines, winning support from 70% of Democrats but only 21% of Republicans.

“Providing financial aid for undocumented state residents is one policy where the Murphy administration is running ahead of public opinion as a whole, although it is clearly in line with evolved views in the governor’s own political party,” Murray said.

Broader views on immigration in the Garden State have remained similar over the last decade. In 2010, 34% said immigration benefitted New Jersey, compared to 37% in Monday’s poll. But negative views on immigration are falling out of favor.

Eleven years ago, 32% said immigration was harming the state. That number fell to 20% in the more recent Monmouth poll, while the number who said it had no effect rose from 21% to 33%.

At the same time, New Jersey residents don’t view illegal immigration as nearly a big a problem as they did in 2009, when 51% said it was a very serios problem for the state. Just 24% of respondents said the same in Monday’s poll.

That drop was fueled by declines from all ends of the political spectrum, though 49% of Republicans still view it as a significant issue.

The poll had a margin of error of 3.7% and a sample size of 706 Garden State adults.

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