As 2016 Election Cycle Begins, Clear Bipartisan Support for Protections for Refugees Evident

Washington, D.C.  – New polling data from Human Rights First reveals support among American voters for candidates who support reforms that increase protections for refugees and those seeking asylum. The poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, surveyed registered voters in 25 of the most competitive congressional districts and statewide in New Hampshire and South Carolina, important early primary states. The most compelling findings revealed a sense among American voters that the system to protect refugees and asylum seekers is in need of serious reform that better protects them.

“As Congress continues to debate immigration proposals, this polling data makes clear that there is deep support from voters in competitive congressional districts, New Hampshire and South Carolina for measures to improve and strengthen the nation’s asylum and refugee system,” said Eleanor Acer of Human Right First. “This includes increasing the number of judges who serve on immigration courts, increasing funding to conduct more timely asylum interviews, increasing the use of alternatives rather than putting asylum seekers in jails and detention facilities, and increasing funds for the resettlement of refugees.”

“It’s significant that even at a time of partisan division on so many issues, Americans of all political stripes support common-sense reforms that would enable the United States to better embrace our proud tradition of welcoming refugees,” said Jim Ziglar, former commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization Services under President George W. Bush.

Furthermore, as the 2016 election cycle begins, the data shows that a Member of Congress stands to benefit electorally from being viewed as an advocate for strengthening the country’s asylum and refugee system to better protect those who flee persecution – especially among the key target demographic of Independent women in the upcoming 2016 elections.

“Only 10 percent of voters in the targeted congressional districts believe the system is ‘working well the way it is, and they want to see reforms to better protect refugees,’” said

Robert Blizzard, Partner at Public Opinion Strategies. “More importantly if voters learn that their member of Congress is an advocate to strengthen the asylum and refugee system, 42 percent say they are more likely to vote for that member; among women who identify as independent that number is even higher.”

The poll also reveals support for specific reforms that will strengthen protections for those seeking safety in the United States from threats in their home countries. In the top 25 most competitive congressional districts 78 percent of registered voters support an increase in the number of immigration judges who hear asylum cases in order to ensure fair and timely hearings for those fleeing persecution. Republicans (75 percent), Independents (71 percent) and Democrats (89 percent) all support this proposal by a wide margin.

A majority of voters across parties, Republicans (50 percent), Independents (58 percent) and Democrats (78 percent), support alternatives to the current practices that put low-risk asylum seekers in jails and detention facilities. Sixty-two percent of voters believe that rather than holding asylum seekers in jails and detention facilities, the United States should increase the use of alternatives to detention.

“A majority of voters support an increase in funding for resettlement programs in the United States that help refugees across the world, including victims of political persecution, Christians and other religious minorities, and vulnerable women at risk of rape or other violence,” said Eleanor Acer, of Human Rights First. “It’s clear that Americans of all political parties believe that our country is still, as Ronald Reagan called it, a ‘shining city on hill,’ and a beacon for hope for those who are persecuted. And they are ready to show that support in how they vote.”

More on the poll is available here.


Published on March 30, 2015


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