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Americans split on Obama's immigration action

Obama, in Chicago on Tuesday, will speak to the Polish American Association as he pushes back at the idea that his actions only apply to Hispanic immigrants.
Image: Parents, youth activists, and workers rally in support of immigration reform, outside the White House.
Parents, youth activists, and workers rally in support of immigration reform, outside the White House in Washington, on Nov. 21, 2014.

On President Obama’s recent executive action to shield as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, like so many other polarizing issues, public opinion is sharply divided.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Tuesday, 45% of voters said Obama should take executive action on immigration, which he did last week, if Congress fails to act, while 48% they were against the idea.

RELATED: President Obama announces immigration action

The survey also showed that support for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is at its lowest level ever measured by Quinnipiac. Just under half, 48% of voters, said undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay and be provided a path to citizenship—down from the 57% from November of last year.

Meanwhile, 35% said undocumented immigrants should be required to leave the U.S., up from the 26% a year ago. And 11% said immigrants should be allowed to stay but not be allowed to apply for citizenship. That percentage is consistent with previous surveys on the same issue.

“While President Barack Obama’s popularity wallows, support for immigrants wanes as Americans look at immigration reform with ambivalence,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the survey. The president's approval rating in the poll stood at just 39%-- just hovering above his lowest-ever 38% approval rating in December of last year. The survey has a margin of error of 2.4 points and was taken Nov. 18-23. Obama announced the executive action on immigration on Nov. 20. 

The president announced late last week that he would defer the deportation of the parents of children who are either legal residents or U.S. citizens. He also said he would expand protection to so-called “DREAM-ers” or children who came to the country illegally with their parents. In addition, those two groups will not be prohibited from working in the U.S. legally after passing a background check. His executive actions will protect millions from deportation for three years.

Republicans immediately criticized the move, calling it constitutional overreach and "amnesty."

RELATED: Obama responds to GOP critics on immigration

Obama stressed that the plan would not grant undocumented immigrants the right to stay in the U.S. permanently and that he will push for a more permanent legislative solution in Congress. He is in Chicago on Tuesday to tout his executive order and will address the Polish American Association at the Copernicus Center in the city's Jefferson Park neighborhood.

The president is trying to push back at the notion that his actions only apply to Hispanic immigrants. “Not everybody who comes here is Latino,” Obama said last week at a rally in Las Vegas. “I’m from Chicago. We’ve got some Irish immigrants whose papers are not in order. We’ve got some Polish immigrants whose papers are not in order. This is not just a Latino issue. This is an American issue.”

The Quinnipiac survey found that Americans were also split over a number of other issues, besides immigration. Americans were also split on how they view the state of the nation’s economy. Just 2% said “excellent,” while 31% said “good,” 38% said “not so good” and 28% said “poor.” And when asked if Congress should try to appeal Obama’s Affordable Care Act, 48% said yes while 46% said Congress should let the law stand.