Poll: Americans Face Sticker Shock on Border Surge

PHOTO: U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel walk along a section of the recently-constructed fence at the U.S.-Mexico border on February 26, 2013 in Nogales, Arizona.

John Moore/Getty Images

Over six in ten Americans want to beef up border security, but they prefer it be for the right price, according to a new poll.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Thursday shows that support for the Senate's "border surge" -- which would double the size of the U.S. Border Patrol and require completion of 700 miles worth of fence -- is tempered by its cost.

More from Gary Langer, whose firm conducted the poll:

When the cost isn't mentioned, 64 percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll support adding 20,000 border control agents and 700 miles of fence along the U.S. border with Mexico. Given the $46 billion price tag, however, support declines to 53 percent.

In short, Americans love the "border surge" until they hear the price. Then they are mostly OK with it.

The "surge" was added to the Senate bill in a bid to win over Republican senators concerned about illegal border crossings. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects that the provision could reduce the number of illegal crossings and visa overstays by up to half.

But not everyone's a fan of the border buildup. Some Democrats and immigrant-rights groups are concerned the costly project could "militarize" the border. Border-hawk Republicans don't think it goes far enough.

Among the public, Republicans support increased border security more strongly than Democrats. But support falls for the "border surge" across all groups when the cost is mentioned. Langer writes:

When the price of increased border security is not mentioned, 84 percent of Republicans and 78 percent of conservatives support it, compared with 56 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of liberals. If the price tag in the Senate bill is included, support for stricter border control slips by similar amounts across partisan and ideological groups. Among other groups, some of the sharpest drops in support given the $46 billion cost are among younger, lower-income and less-educated adults, and nonwhites.

Now, the House has taken up immigration reform and is weighing even more stringent border measures than the Senate's. It should keep in mind that spending too much on securing the border could cause sticker-shock among Americans.

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