With immigration reform stalled in Congress, President Obama’s approval rating on the issue has collapsed.
Only 32 percent of Americans approve of the president’s handling of the issue while 60 percent disapprove, according to a new Pew Research Center poll. The numbers are damaging news for the president, who considers the issue a top second-term priority.
In June, just before the Senate passed a major immigration overhaul backed by Obama, his approval on the issue was nearly even — 43 percent approved while 47 percent disapproved.
Some might argue that Obama’s sinking approval on immigration is simply an indicator of his overall dip in job approval. According to Pew, 41 percent approve of the president’s performance, down 14 points since last December. Fifty-three percent disapprove of his work in office.
But his rating on immigration is significantly lower. The number of Americans who approve of Obama’s job on immigration is 9 percentage points lower than his overall rating. Obama only ranks lower on one issue: the economy (31 percent approval).
Nearly eight in ten Democrats still endorse Obama’s job performance, but far fewer (53 percent) back his handling of immigration. The president’s overall approval among Latinos—who tend to be strong supporters of immigration reform—is at 60 percent, down 11 points since June.
Momentum behind immigration reform sputtered over the summer, when leaders of the Republican-controlled House said that the Senate’s immigration bill was dead on arrival. GOP lawmakers prefer to deal with the issue through a series of smaller bills. But so far, none have received a vote before the full House.
Even Republican supporters of immigration reform concede there is virtually no time left to deal with the issue this year.
Meanwhile, Obama has come under increasing pressure from reform activists who want him to take unilateral action to suspend deportations for millions of undocumented immigrants who could receive legal status under pending legislation. But Congress remains gridlocked, and Obama has suffered as a result.
Obama has deported a record number of people living in the U.S. without papers; the number could surpass 2 million by 2014.
So far, Obama has balked at that option. He has said it is incumbent upon Congress to act.
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.