Immigration tops list of most important issues, poll says

The percentage of Americans who say that immigration is the nation's top problem has soared over the past month, according to a new national survey.

A Gallup poll released Wednesday indicates that 17% of the public says that immigration is the most important issue right now, up 12-percentage points from June.

The survey comes as Americans debate what to do about the influx of unaccompanied and undocumented children from Central America who are crossing from Mexico into the U.S, which has been a top story in the media the past few weeks.

Dissatisfaction with the government (16%), the economy (15%), and jobs (14%) rank just below immigration. No other issue offered cracked double digits in the new poll (health care came in at 8%).

"This is not the first time that immigration has spiked in the public's consciousness. Most recently, Gallup found the issue increasing to 10% in 2010, at a time when a new immigration law in Arizona was making news. And prior to that, it increased twice in 2006, to 15% or higher, amid congressional debate over immigration reform," said a release by Gallup.

The survey indicated a partisan divide on the importance of the issue, with 23% of Republicans, but only 11% of Democrats, saying that immigration is the most pressing issue facing the nation right now.

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The survey suggests that crisis along the southern border could be an important factor in this year's midterm elections.

"Each previous spike in mentions of immigration as the nation's top problem was fairly short-lived. But with no solution to the current crisis in sight, and less than four months to go before the midterm elections, it is easy to believe the issue could still be a factor come November," wrote Gallup.

The Gallup poll was conducted July 7-10, with 1,013 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error was plus or minus four percentage points.

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