Poll: For GOP, voting for amnesty is playing with fire

Earlier this evening John wrote:

[T]he fundamental reality is that Democrats are in favor of illegal immigration, and Republicans are against it. The GOP wins that one every time.

I agree with John on both counts. However, on the issue of amnesty for illegal immigrants Republicans are divided.

Being for amnesty is not the same thing as being for illegal immigration. However, amnesty encourages illegal immigration. Thus, if you’re against illegal immigration, you should be wary of any amnesty proposal.

Congressional Republicans have another reason to be wary of any amnesty: There’s a good chance that voting for amnesty will harm their electoral prospects.

That, at least, is the finding of a poll by McLaughlin & Associates for Tea Party Patriots Action. The survey asked 1,000 likely voters this question:

Would you be more or less likely to vote to reelect a Republican Member of Congress who voted to provide amnesty for a group of illegal immigrants? If it would make no difference, just say so.

42 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to vote to reelect such a Republican Member. 25 percent said they would be more likely to do so.

Among Republicans voters surveyed, the split was more pronounced. 61 percent said they would be less likely to vote for the reelection of a Republican who backs amnesty. Only 18 percent were more likely to do so.

I should add that, before the question of how respondents would vote was asked, they were presented with this question:

33 percent said they have this trust. 50 percent said lack it.

The information contained in this question is completely accurate. However, when voters go to the polls in November, they are unlikely to have just been informed about the 1986 amnesty. Thus, the responses in this survey to the question of how amnesty would figure in their voting decision probably overstate the extent to which it actually would figure negatively.

Even so, I think John McLaughlin is right to warn, based on the results of his poll, that congressional Republicans risk “a tremendous loss of support among GOP base voters” if they vote for amnesty. At a minimum, they risk losing a considerable amount of enthusiasm from the base. If you’re a Republican running for reelection, you don’t want to bank on voters being ignorant about what happened with the 1986 amnesty.

And if you are inclined to vote for amnesty, you should want it (1) to be limited to the most sympathetic subset of illegal immigrants and (2) to include the full range of tools to enforce our immigration laws going forward and the maximum possible assurance that these tools are, and will be, for real.

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