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Poll Finds a Boost for Obama on Handling Immigration

John Gurzinski/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Public approval of President Obama’s handling of immigration has jumped to a career high in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, buttressed by majority support for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and, much more broadly, endorsement of stricter border control.

While the president lacks majority approval on the issue overall, slightly more Americans now approve than disapprove of his approach, by 49 vs. 43 percent.  Obama was underwater on the issue -- just 38 percent approved, while 52 percent disapproved -- as recently as last July.

See a PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

In terms of specific policies, an overwhelming 83 percent support stricter border control, including 64 percent who are “strongly” supportive; only 15 percent are opposed. Fewer, 55 percent, also favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, with 41 percent opposed.

There are vast differences among groups, underscoring the president’s advantage on the issue among nonwhites generally and Hispanics in particular, and the Republican Party’s challenges in finding support within the party for an immigration policy that can boost its support among Hispanics.

Specifically, 67 percent of Hispanics and 71 percent of nonwhites overall approve of Obama’s handling of immigration, compared with 38 percent of whites.  And a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants is supported by 82 percent of Hispanics and 71 percent of all nonwhites, as well as by nearly seven in 10 Democrats and just over half of independents.  It’s supported by fewer than half of whites, 47 percent; Republicans, 42 percent; and by just 37 percent of adults who describe themselves as very conservative politically.

Obama lost whites by 20 percentage points in the November election, but won nonwhites by 61 points, including Hispanics by 44 points, en route to re-election.

Making the president’s gains on the issue, “strong” approval and strong disapproval of his handling of immigration are essentially even -- 27 vs. 28 percent in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.  In previous ABC/Post polls, Obama’s strongly negative ratings on immigration far outweighed his strongly positive ones.

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