A coalition of national business leaders, mayors from around the country and a small group of Iowa Republicans has financed a new survey which they argue shows immigration may not be a “hot button” issue with Iowa Caucus-goers. John Stineman, a Des Moines-based Republican consultant, helped coordinate the effort.

“It’s eye-opening and perhaps, I think, re-sets the common perceptions of the Iowa Republican Caucus-goer on this set of important issues,” Stineman said during a briefing for reporters this morning.

The survey found 16% of likely Iowa Caucus-goers were opposed to proposals that would “modernize” or expand legal immigration.  Seventy-two percent of those surveyed said they are open to letting foreign-born students educated at American colleges to get a job in the U.S. after graduation. Pollster Ann Selzer says the survey tried to “get a feel” for where immigration rates as a critical issue for Iowa Republicans.

“Fewer than half say halting illegal immigration is a critical issue and even lower than that are social issues such as abortion, so we know that Iowa has a bit of an image…as being more on the social conservative side than the fiscal side and I think these numbers say this is a different year,” Selzer said during today’s briefing. “This is a different mood. This is a different agenda.”

The poll found 64 percent of likely Iowa Caucus-goers are open to streamlining the process for hiring immigrants to fill jobs Americans are unwilling to take. Still, Selzer said other issues like reforming the tax code and improving the nation’s economy are ranked as more important to most of the Iowa Caucus-goers her firm surveyed.

“This is the point that I’ve been making about these caucuses all along, that is issues about reducing government spending, creating jobs — these are the things that really best reflect the mood of caucus-goers this season,” Selzer said.

Selzer conducts the “Iowa Poll” for The Des Moines Register and also has done polling for Bloomberg News. This latest poll on immigration was conducted from November 16-19. The “Partnership for a New American Economy” — which financed the poll — is made up of big city mayors and national business leaders. Former Republican State Auditor Richard Johnson, two Republicans who used to serve in the Iowa House and Christian Fong, a 2010 candidate for governor, joined that group to direct the survey.

Immigration has been a hotly-debated topic among the presidential candidates, with candidates like Michele Bachmann making it clear they believe rivals like Newt Gingrich would support “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. Gingrich has said he supports giving illegal immigrants with long-time family and work connections in the U.S. some path to gaining legal status. Texas Governor Rick Perry has also defended his state’s decision to grant in-state tuition to illegal immigrants who were brought into the country by their parents.

Listen to the AUDIO of the 27-minute briefing for reporters.