New Poll Suggests Immigration Battle Is Winnable

It seems, these days, that just about everybody is trying to bum-rush conservatives into accepting amnesty, and with it millions of new Democratic voters. We are told that sticking to enforcement of immigration laws is anathema to voters, yet I remember what happened when the political class, abetted by the Chamber of Commerce, tried to impose “comprehensive immigration reform” in 2007. The public went ballistic and stopped the bill–one of the few genuinely bipartisan efforts of recent years–in its tracks. My own Congressman, John Kline, told me how many calls and emails he had gotten on the topic; I don’t remember the number, but he said it was the most he had ever received on any issue. Not only that, they were virtually unanimous–at the time we talked, he had heard from a grand total of one constituent who supported comprehensive immigration reform.

So has the political landscape really changed that much since 2007? A just-released poll by Pulse Opinion Research, which surveyed 1,000 likely voters, suggests that the answer may be No. Consider these results:

Has the government’s effort to enforce immigration laws in the United States been too much, too little, or just right?

* Too much: 10%
* Too little: 64%
* Just right: 15%
* Not sure: 12%

Would you prefer to see illegal immigrants in the United States go back to their home countries or be given legal status?

* Go back to their home countries: 52%
* Be given legal status: 33%
* Not sure: 15%

Would you be more likely to vote for a political party that supports enforcing immigration laws or a political party that supports legalizing illegal immigrants?

* Supports enforcing immigration laws: 53%
* Supports legalizing illegal immigrants: 32%
* Not sure: 15%

This one is really interesting because it goes to the heart of the “compromise” that liberals want us to accept:

If the government did give legal status to illegal immigrants in the country and promised that immigration laws would be enforced, how confident are you that laws would be enforced?

* Very confident: 6%
* Somewhat confident: 21%
* Not very confident: 35%
* Not at all confident: 35%
* Not sure: 3%

This one is the sort of question most pollsters don’t dare ask:

Some politicians are pushing for legislation that would give the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country citizenship. Is the main reason they are pushing for this legislation because they are pandering to Hispanics to get votes OR because they are genuinely concerned about illegal immigrants?

* They are pandering to Hispanics to get votes: 62%
* They are genuinely concerned about illegal immigrants: 25%
* Not sure: 14%

One more, relating to jobs:

Which of the following best reflects your views of low-wage jobs that require relatively education–America needs large numbers of immigrants to fill these jobs because there are not enough Americans willing to do them OR there are plenty of Americans to do such jobs, if employers can’t find workers, they should pay more and treat workers better?

* Not enough Americans willing to do them: 23%
* There are plenty of Americans to do such jobs: 67%
* Not sure: 10%

The demographic breakdown is interesting, too. African-Americans are generally slightly more likely than whites to oppose amnesty, and they are even more convinced than whites that the politicians who push for amnesty are pandering. Not surprisingly, they also feel even more strongly than whites that there are plenty of Americans to perform low-wage jobs. The immigration issue thus exposes a huge split in the Democratic Party.

Moreover, Hispanic voters are highly ambivalent about the various aspects of the immigration issue. The “Other” category in this survey, which would be mostly, but not entirely, Hispanic, is somewhat more favorable to legalization than whites and African-Americans. Still, even among “others,” 36% would prefer to see illegal immigrants to return to their home countries, compared with 46% who want them to be given legal status. Sixty-two percent of “others” think the U.S. has done too little to enforce its immigration laws, and, while 42% of “others” would be more likely to vote for a party that favors legalization, 39% are more likely to vote for a party that wants to enforce existing laws. Most striking, perhaps, is that 56% of “others” think politicians who favor amnesty are pandering to Hispanic voters, while only 35% think they really care about illegal immigrants. And this one is revealing: more than any other ethnic group, “others” agree that “giving legal status to illegal immigrants does not solve the problem because rewarding law breaking will only encourage more illegal immigration in the future.” A whopping 83% of others agree with this proposition, either “strongly” or “somewhat,” compared with 69% of whites and 65% of African-Americans. My guess is that the others have a good read on the situation.

This is another significant finding: 100% of the 36% of “others” who would rather see illegal immigrants return to their home countries than be legalized hold that belief strongly. If the GOP got only the Hispanic portion of that group–say, 30% of the total “other” population–it would be an improvement over recent electoral results.

Polling techniques, and polls, vary widely, and it is generally mistake to put too much stock in any one survey. Still, this one at least attempts to identify likely voters. And it is consistent with the common-sense view that public opinion shouldn’t have shifted too much in a mere six years. Republicans, therefore, should take their time and consider all proposed legislation critically. There is no reason to be stampeded into going along with proposals that are both unwise from a policy standpoint, and political poison.

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