US Immigration Policy
President Obama will give a speech addressing immigration reform on Tuesday afternoon. REUTERS

With Congress likely to tackle immigration reform in the next term, a new poll shows that a majority of Americans support giving undocumented immigrants a route to citizenship.

According to a new POLITICO/George Washington University poll, 62 percent of Americans backed a citizenship measure compared to 35 percent who opposed it. While Democrats were far more likely to favor offering undocumented immigrants citizenship -- Democrats backed the idea 74 percent to 24 percent -- a slim majority of Republicans were also in favor, 49 percent to 45 percent.

Those numbers rose when people were asked about a specific population of undocumented immigrants: those who were brought to the country as children. 77 percent of respondents backed offering those immigrants citizenship if they serve in the military or obtain a college degree, essentially endorsing the premise of a Democratic-backed bill, the DREAM Act, that has foundered amid Republican opposition.

Mitt Romney was in lockstep with the Republican Party’s prevailing views when he said during his presidential campaign that he would not sign the DREAM Act. But the new POLITICO/George Washington University suggests that Republicans may be out of sync with the American public on the issue.

“The public is there for immigration reform,” Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who helped conduct the poll, told POLITICO. “The Republicans are marginalizing themselves and losing Latino voters, and their own base is not even with them.”

Republicans seem to be more receptive to pursuing immigration reform than before, given their Election Day drubbing among Latino voters, and President Obama reportedly plans to make the issue a priority at the start of his second term.

But forging a comprehensive fix that accommodates everyone’s concerns could be difficult. Rhetoric equating DREAM Act-like measures for undocumented immigrants with amnesty is commonplace among Republicans, while Democrats are skeptical about some of the beefed-up enforcement Republicans would want in a deal.

President Obama is also contending with low marks for his immigration record. The poll found that more respondents disapproved than approved of his handling of the issue, 48 percent to 45 percent. Some of the president's allies have lambasted him for presiding over a record number of deportations while failing to get the comprehensive immigration reform bill he promised during his 2008 run.