Tennesseans are becoming more open to letting undocumented immigrants stay in the country — even as official federal policy has been moving in the opposite direction.
A new poll from Vanderbilt University finds that 56 percent of Tennessee voters say undocumented immigrants "should be allowed to stay in the country and to eventually apply for U.S. citizenship." That's up from 48 percent when Vanderbilt first asked the question nearly six years ago.
And the share who say undocumented immigrants should be required to leave has also fallen. Vanderbilt finds that 26 percent now say they should be deported, down from 32 percent in 2012.
Vanderbilt professor John Geer, one of the poll's co-director, says the findings "underscore that Tennessee is more moderate than many claim."
The Vanderbilt poll was conducted by telephone in late April and early May by the survey and market research firm SSRS. 1,400 registered voters were contacted. The poll has a margin of error of plus/minus 3.6 percentage points.
The poll also found solid backing for DACA, the Obama-era program for children brought to the U.S. illegally. Three in five Tennesseans say they strongly or somewhat support deferred action.
Support for making people in the DACA program eligible for in-state college tuition was even higher. According to Vanderbilt, 65 percent of Tennesseans believe they should be eligible.
In another finding that runs against federal political trends, Vanderbilt pollsters also detected rising support for free trade. Fifty-six percent of Tennesseans say free trade agreements are "a good thing," up from 40 percent in November 2016.
But Vanderbilt found that Tennesseans are evenly split on the question of whether teachers should be allowed to carry guns in schools. They were also divided on the question of whether the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., have had a positive impact on the nation's gun debate.