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April 13, 2006

Immigration Polling Politics

A regular reader of Past Peak, who describes himself as conservative-leaning, wrote me earlier today to suggest that poll results on illegal immigration might have a different interpretation than what I wrote yesterday. Namely, he suggested, respondents may disapprove of Bush's handling of the issue not because they have a less punitive view than Bush's, but rather because they have a more punitive view. Bush talks about amnesty. Maybe poll respondents want to see all illegals deported.

Certainly possible, and definitely worth looking into. So what do the polls show? Polling Report collects the results of a number of recent polls here. The picture that emerges is murky and a bit contradictory, but I think overall it's clear that most Americans do not favor drastic punitive action. They see illegal immigration as a significant problem, but they oppose blanket deportation and favor a program that would allow law-abiding immigrants to stay.

USA Today/Gallup Poll. April 7-9, 2006

Immigration should be...
kept at its present level or increased: 50%
decreased: 47%

Illegal immigration is...
out of control: 81%
not out of control: 16%

Illegal immigrants currently residing in the US should be...
all deported: 18%
allowed to remain for a limited time: 17%
allowed to remain if they meet certain requirements: 63%

Effectiveness of ways to reduce illegal immigration:

 Very
effective
Some-
what
Not
very
Not
at all
Penalties on employers52%32%9%5%
More border patrol officers37%44%13%5%
Bar access to schools, hospitals30%30%20%17%
Raise living standards abroad28%39%16%15%
Build wall on Mexico border18%30%19%30%

FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll. April 4-5, 2006

Do immigrants help the country and make it a better place to live or hurt it and make it worse?
Help: 42%
Hurt: 30%
It depends: 20%

How serious a problem is illegal immigration?
Very: 60%
Somewhat: 30%
Not very: 6%

How serious a problem is illegal immigration in your community?
Very: 23%
Somewhat: 24%
Not very: 26%
Not at all: 24%

That last item is intriguing. People say illegal immigration is a very serious problem in the abstract. But in their community, not so much. This may be because some communities just don't have many illegals residing there, but I'd like to think it's also because when people actually come into contact with the immigrants around them, they find that the overwhelming majority are hard-working, decent folks.

It will be very interesting to see the results of polls conducted after the nationwide marches on Monday (the polls cited above were taken before the marches). Some conservative pundits have predicted a backlash. I'm inclined to think the opposite. On Monday, people got to see that immigrants and their supporters are peaceful, law-abiding people with families to support. Time will tell.

[Thanks, Mike]

Posted by Jonathan at April 13, 2006 09:52 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Comments

That last item is intriguing. People say illegal immigration is a very serious problem in the abstract. But in their community, not so much. This may be because some communities just don't have many illegals residing there,
That is the trend of statements from people in the Texas/Arazona area.

The whole 'jobs Americans don't want to do' is bullshit BTW. Americans don't want to do the jobs at the WAGES paid. Why would you take LESS than minimum wage to work in a field with nasty insect and fungus killing toxins in the hot sun with a ergonomicly short handled hoe?

I'm all for the free market working in this case...pay a living wage.

Posted by: eric blair at April 14, 2006 07:10 AM

No one is arguing that illegals aren't hardworking. The problem is they are too hardworking: they are willing to work very hard at the lowest jobs for nothing. In essence, they are fighting for their right to be Negroes. High school kids can't get the lowly restaraunt jobs I had in high school because the restaraunt can hire what are essentially slaves.

I wouldn't be so bothered by illegals if they were following in the footsteps of Chavez and demanding tolerable working conditions. But then if conditions improved citizens would be willing to take the jobs and there would be no need for illegals.

Posted by: Derek at April 14, 2006 12:15 PM

"That last item is intriguing. People say illegal immigration is a very serious problem in the abstract. But in their community, not so much."

I hate to quote him, but one point Bjorn Lomborg made in "The Skeptical Environmentalist" is that polls show that people always think environmental problems are worse in places away from where they live - and the further away the worse they imagine things are.

While he's a disingenuous creep with regards to environmental problems, I think what that says about human psychology may be a fairly constant phenomenon...

Posted by: Big Gav at April 15, 2006 07:28 AM

"I wouldn't be so bothered by illegals if they were following in the footsteps of Chavez and demanding tolerable working conditions."

I think you've inadvertently put your finger on a key issue, Derek. Because they're illegals, they are in a very poor position to demand more favorable working conditions. Their employers hold all the power in the situation as it stands, so they have to find some way to legitimize their presense in the US. I suspect once some immigration reform happens that does that, not too long after we'll start seeing movement toward bettering work conditions.

Posted by: at April 21, 2006 06:29 PM