Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

News Release

Contact: Joe King, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-4299

April 30, 2007

Most in Illinois favor laws targeting illegal immigration

DeKalb, Ill. — Hundreds of thousands of Latinos and other immigrants will march in Chicago on Tuesday, May 1, in support of changes to U.S. immigration laws. But that cause appears to be unpopular with the majority of Illinois residents, says a Northern Illinois University survey.

In a statewide survey conducted late last year, Mike Peddle, a professor of public administration at NIU, found that two-thirds of Illinois residents consider illegal immigration to be a problem, with half of those classifying it as a “big problem.”

Furthermore, the survey found support for laws aimed at making life more difficult for illegal immigrants and those who help them. According to the survey:

  • Those who hire undocumented immigrants should be punished. Nearly two-thirds of respondents supported the idea of punishing those who hire undocumented immigrants, with 28 percent strongly favoring the idea.
  • Landlords who rent to undocumented immigrants should be punished. Nearly half of respondents (47 percent) said those who rent homes or apartments to undocumented immigrants should be punished, with 18 percent strongly favoring the idea.
  • English should be the official language. More than two-thirds of respondents (67 percent) favored making English the official language of Illinois, while 62 percent favored a law making it the official language of their community. (Note: A 1969 law established English as the official language of the state.)

Further analysis of the survey found that attitudes toward undocumented immigrants tended to become more negative the further respondents lived from the city of Chicago.

For instance, in Chicago, 53 percent of respondents favored laws punishing employers who hired undocumented immigrants, as compared to 60 percent in suburban Cook County, and more than 70 percent in all of the remaining regions of the state. Similarly, when asked if English should be the official language of Illinois, 81-83 percent of respondents in the southernmost regions of the state supported the idea versus 58 percent of those in Chicago, 62 percent of those in suburban Cook County and 68 percent in the collar counties.

While the survey did not probe too deeply into the possible motivations for those feelings, it did seem to rule out competition for jobs. Nearly 70 percent of respondents statewide said that immigrants (not distinguishing between legal and illegal immigrants) mostly take jobs that Illinois workers don’t want. That response did not vary much by region, ranging from a low of 62 percent in northern Illinois to 73 percent in the city of Chicago.

Events like Tuesday’s march will continue to keep the issue simmering, says Peddle, but finding solutions will not be easy.

“These marches, coupled with this type of public sentiment, will keep the issue on the radar for politicians. Both sides seem to agree that there is a need for some sort of reform, whether that takes the form of stricter enforcement of existing laws, creation of new laws or enactment of some sort of amnesty plan, remains to be seen,” Peddle says.

The questions on illegal immigration, were part of the Illinois Policy Survey (which was overseen by Peddle and Professor Barbara Burrell) which was released in February. The statewide poll, which measures attitudes, values and expectations with respect to the performance of elected officials and policy issues facing Illinois, is conducted annually by the Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University. The survey is based upon responses from 1,242 people across the state. It has a confidence interval of +/- 3 percent.

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