Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly support requiring individuals to provide proof of citizenship or legal residency in order to receive state benefits such as public housing or public assistance, according to the latest Suffolk University/7News poll.

Eighty-four percent of voters polled said the Massachusetts Legislature should act to require proof of citizenship for those receiving state benefits, while 12 percent opposed such a move, and 4 percent were undecided.

“Voters are mixed on immigration reform, but when you introduce the issue of taxpayer- funded public assistance programs, Massachusetts voters draw a line in the sand,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “They are saying, by a wide margin, that they want proof of citizenship or legal residency clearly established before one taxpayer dime is given to a recipient.”

Arizona model

The recent Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigrants has sent shock waves from coast to coast, and Massachusetts voters are listening. Ninety-four percent of voters said they were aware of the Arizona law on illegal immigration, while 6 percent were not, the Suffolk University/7News poll found.

In the poll of registered voters, 53 percent said they supported the Arizona law, while 40 percent opposed it. Yet, when asked if Massachusetts should pass a law similar to the Arizona law, 43 percent said yes and 50 percent said no.

“There is a great lesson to be learned here about states’ rights,” said Paleologos. “Voters here support the right of Arizona to pass its own law to deal with its border issues directly. However, in Massachusetts, voters do not feel the urgency to have the Legislature follow suit.”

Asylum for president's aunt

Voters showed sensitivity to individual cases. When asked if President Obama’s aunt, Zeituni Onyango, who was granted political asylum, should be deported after living illegally in South Boston for six years, 58 percent said that political asylum is the right decision because she risked being harmed in her homeland of Kenya. Twenty-nine percent said that she received special treatment and should be deported regardless of the risks, and 13 percent were undecided.

Massachusetts voters also weighed in on the broader issue of producing documentation, with 60 percent saying that everyone in the United States should be required to produce documents proving that they are here legally, 30 percent saying no, and 7 percent undecided.


The statewide survey of 500 Massachusetts registered voters was conducted May 20-23, 2010. The margin of error is +/- 4.4 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. Marginals and cross-tabulation data are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center Web site. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.