WPRI 12/RWU Poll: RI voters back DACA immigration program, AR-15 ban

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A majority of Rhode Islanders support continuing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program and enacting a statewide ban on semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15, an exclusive WPRI 12/Roger Williams University poll released Monday shows.

The survey of 419 registered Rhode Island voters finds 75% support allowing immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children to stay in the country without risk of deportation, while 17% oppose that policy and 8% aren’t sure.

Monday was the deadline set by President Trump for Congress to reauthorize the DACA program, but a federal judge has temporarily put a hold on his plans. Congressional leaders have been negotiating over a resolution to the issue but have been unable to come to an agreement.

A majority of all groups surveyed back DACA, though there are partisan differences in the strength of support. While 92% of Democrats are in favor of the program, that number falls to 68% among independents and 53% among Republicans. There is a gender gap, as well: 24% of men oppose DACA, compared with only 11% of women.

Gabriela Domenzain, director of the Latino Policy Institute at RWU, said an estimated 3,300 individuals in Rhode Island are eligible for the DACA program, but only around 1,200 signed up before the Trump administration stopped accepting applications.

“The numbers that we see in Rhode Island mirror the national support to find a permanent solution for these individuals,” Domenzain said, adding: “Rhode Islanders and the American public want a permanent solution so that folks with DACA don’t have to wake up wondering whether they are going to come home at night or not.”

On guns, the poll finds 60% of Rhode Island voters support enacting a state law which would make it illegal to sell or possess semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15. A coalition of Democratic lawmakers and gun-control advocates are pushing such a bill, which they describe as an assault-weapons ban.

Unlike with DACA, however, there are major differences across groups on the proposed assault-weapons ban. While a majority of Democrats (71%) and independents (54%) support the measure, it is opposed by half of Republicans. There is also a sizable gender gap, with 71% of women but only 48% of men supporting the proposal.

The landline and cell-phone interview poll was conducted Sunday, Feb. 25, through Wednesday, Feb. 28, by Fleming & Associates of Cumberland, Rhode Island. The survey has an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus approximately 4.8 percentage points. Fleming has been conducting polls for WPRI 12 since 1984.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook