About that exit poll question …

Never ask a question unless you already know the answer! The otherwise estimable Tom Edsall is among those taking a semi-rigged immigration question on the presidential exit poll as proof that voters favor amnesty:

In a setback to conservatives, the Nov. 6 exit polls gave strong support to liberalized immigration reform, which is likely to become a top priority for the Obama administration, with 65 percent of respondents agreeing that illegal immigrants should be “offered a chance to apply for legal status,” while only 28 percent of those surveyed opposed such reform.

In fact, that is a deceptive summary of the poll question.  Here is what was asked:

Should most illegal immigrants working in the United States be:

Offered a chance to apply for legal status –65%

Deported to the country they came from –28%

The only way you could “oppose” the chance for legal status, in other words, was to embrace the wild idea of actually deporting “most” illegal immigrants. The major alternatives to Obama’s “liberalized immigration reform”–even Mitt Romney’s idea of “self-deportation”–don’t involve such a step. I’m amazed it got 28%.

Another way to look at it: The Lou Dobbsish answer to Obama’s “comprehensive immigration reform” is “Enforcement First.” Secure the border now, talk about amnesty later. If you favor “Enforcement First,”( as I do) how would you answer the exit question? I don’t support mass deportation. I’m for letting people stay “in the shadows” until the border enforcement mechanisms have been shown to work. Then (this would be after a few years) I would hope we could create, yes, a path to legal status, including citizenship. So I would have to answer the question with the 65%–even though I spend much of my time semi-obsessively opposing Obama’s “comprehensive” plan, which would grant amnesty before enforcement measures could be upheld in court and shown to work.

There’s also a not-so-subtle bias in a) talking only about “most” illegal immigrants b) talking only about “working” illegal immigrants and c) saying they would have a “chance to apply” for legal status. This suggests amnesty would only apply to unauthorized immigrants now working, and that even they would only apply for legal status,  maybe the way one applies to college–with the best applicants succeeding. In fact most amnesty plans apply to current non-workers and offer more than a “chance”–anyone who meets the criteria would get in.

The polls 65-28 result isn’t anything new–it’s in line with previous polls that have asked the question in this disingenuous formulation. It’s almost as if the people who wrote the exit poll designed it to produce a result that could be used to argue for amnesty after the election.

Sorry. Did I say “almost”?

P.S.: The poll does not mention “citizenship” at all, only legal status. Sorry, Charlie.