A strong majority in the United States supports avenues to legal status for undocumented immigrants currently living in the country, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Seventy-two percent of respondents said immigrants should be able to obtain legal status, with 42 percent supporting their ability to obtain citizenship and 26 percent favoring a route to permanent, legal residency but not citizenship.

Two percent said they did not know how they felt, while 27 percent expressed that undocumented persons should not be allowed to remain.

“Overall, most Americans reject the idea that giving those who came to the U.S. illegally a path to legal status is in essence ‘rewarding’ them for bad behavior,” Pew noted, with only 36 percent of survey responses saying legal avenues would be “like rewarding them for doing something wrong.”

Responses regarding the contributions of immigrants were more evenly divided. Forty-one percent said undocumented persons were a burden on the nation, while 51 percent said that they strengthened it.

“Over the longer term, the balance of opinion on this question has grown more positive,” the report said. “Throughout the prior decade, opinion was typically more divided, and in 2010, more viewed immigrants as a burden (50 percent) than a strength (39 percent).”

Pew added, “Majorities of Democrats (62 percent) and independents (57 percent) say that immigrants strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents. By contrast, just 27 percent of Republicans see immigrants on balance, as making positive contributions to the country,” a decline from 42 percent in March 2014.

The nation is largely divided regarding the volume of legal immigration. Thirty-nine percent want to keep the present levels, while 31 percent want these decreased and 24 percent hope to see increases.

The report also highlighted that most believe border security can be improved, and few Republicans believe their party is expressing constructively their views on undocumented immigration.

The full report is available here, and the questionnaire is available here.

Editor’s note: EthicsDaily.com has numerous resources available offering moral reflection on immigration. These include articles, Skype interviews (here and here) as well as a documentary film, “Gospel Without Borders,” which brings more light and less heat to the issue by separating myth from fact and examining what the Bible says about treatment of the “stranger.”

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