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Poll Shows Deep Partisan Divide Over Immigration; Other Issues Less Contentious

Katie Peikes
Some of the students who supervised Morningside College's annual public opinion survey.

A western Iowa college has released results from a poll on some hot-button issues like immigration and legalizing recreational marijuana. More than 750 people answered public policy questions from the Col. Bud Day Center for Civic Engagement at Morningside College in Sioux City.
Seventy-four percent of Republicans who answered the survey want the U.S. to reduce funding to cities that provide sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. Only 16 percent of Democrats favor this. Ninety-two percent of Democrats who took the survey favor the U.S. developing a plan for people living illegally in the country to become citizens if they meet certain requirements over time. Of the Republicans who were polled, 60 percent favored developing a citizenship plan.

“It was just very surprising to me how much more in favor or opposed the different parties were," said Morningside sophomore Kalynn Manker at a Morningside news conference on Wednesday.

A group of 10 students supervised the poll alongside Valerie Hennings, a Morningside political science professor and the director of the center for civic engagement. They called people at random across the state between April 22 and May 2 and asked them questions. The interviews averaged almost 10 minutes.

The poll found 49 percent of the people who responded oppose legalizing recreational marijuana in Iowa, while 48 percent are in favor.

More than half of the poll's respondents oppose expanding legal gambling in Iowa to include professional sports betting, while 39 percent want betting on professional sports legalized. A bill legalizing sports betting passed both the House and Senate this year, but it's unclear if Gov. Kim Reynolds will sign it.

Hennings said the poll's results could help elected officials better understand what Iowans think.

“This is a statewide poll and we’re hoping that this information can be used by all those different stakeholders to make better informed decisions about policies that affect the everyday lives of Iowans,” Hennings said.

This is the second year of the poll. Manker said she has done research on whether elected officials or political candidates are responding to it, by analyzing the results of the three gubernatorial debates held last fall between Reynolds and Democratic candidate Fred Hubbell.

Manker took top responses from what people believed were the most important issues facing Iowans, coded the gubernatorial debates and found the top few issues that Iowans prioritized “matched up fairly consistently” with what Reynolds and Hubbell spoke about.

“This isn’t evidence that they directly looked at our poll, but this is evidence that the gubernatorial candidates do take into account public opinion and they do speak a lot about what is important to Iowans,” Manker said.

The center plans to poll people again before the 2020 caucuses.