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A new United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection poll conveys a strong warning from conservative voters to their Republican senators and representatives: Support a pathway to citizenship and you’ll lose our vote.

The poll finds that nearly half of all conservative voters surveyed are willing to turn their backs on their senators and representatives if they decide to back new immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the United States — 49 percent of Republicans surveyed said they are less likely to support a senator or representative if he or she votes in favor of the new bill, 30 percent said that it would “not make much difference either way,” 15 percent would actually be more likely to vote in favor of the representative or senator, and 6 percent were unsure or refused to answer.

national journal immigration GOP voters poll

Even among conservative voters a divide exists between which voters are more passionate about the issue, and which are less likely to allow the issue to affect who they support for re-election.

Among rural conservative voters, 45 percent said they would be less likely to back an incumbent who voted in favor of immigration reform – a number significantly higher than the 36 percent of suburban voters who said the same.

Forty-five percent of blue-collar whites said they are less likely to show future support for a lawmaker voting for the new measure, compared to 33 percent of white-collar whites, while 36 percent of blue-collar whites said the issue will not matter to them, and 32 percent of white-collar whites agreed. Additionally, only 15 percent of blue-collar whites said they are more likely to support the incumbent, but 30 percent of white-collar whites — double the number of blue-collar whites — said the same.

Siding primarily with Republicans, 35 percent of Independent voters said they are less likely to back an incumbent who supports comprehensive immigration reform, and only 19 percent said they would be more likely to support the incumbent.

Most Democrats are not making the issue a deciding factor for future elections.

Only 29 percent of Democrats said they will be more likely to support a senator or representative who backs immigration reform, while 19 percent of Democrats said they would be less likely. Nearly a majority of Democratic voters, 49 percent, said the issue will not make much of a difference to them, and 3 percent were unsure or refused to answer.

The new survey demonstrates how the decision to support comprehensive immigration reform is more complex than just ideological differences between legislators in Congress. Republican senators and representatives seeking re-election have to take their constituents’ interests into consideration when making a final decision – something that goes beyond lawmakers’ own ideological stances.

Because a near-majority of Democrats do not view immigration reform as an issue that will affect their vote for a particular lawmaker, Republicans in the Senate and House may feel greater motivation to vote in accordance with their constituents’ interests and avoid punishment when the time for re-election arrives.

The poll surveyed 1,005 adults from June 20 to June 23, and has a +/- 3.6 percent margin of error.

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