Politics
FILE - In this May 1, 2012 file photo, thousands of protestors participate in a May Day rally in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

Group pushes poll showing 30 to one opposition to immigration bill

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

NumbersUSA has produced a new poll showing that only two percent of respondents strongly back laws allowing businesses to bring in immigrant workers instead of hiring younger Americans, African-Americans or Latino Americans.

That’s one strong supporter for every thirty voters who strongly oppose the importation of extra workers.

Or just one unpopular progressive lobbyist sitting in the middle of a crowded Starbucks, surrounded  by 30 people who hate his cause.

The Senate immigration rewrite aims to dramatically increase foreign immigration levels, which reduced-immigration groups like Numbers USA believes will raise unemployment and reduce wages among less-educated, low-skill Americans.

“This poll frames the issue the way we want to frame it … in a jobs context,” said Roy Beck, head of NumbersUSA, which wishes to reduce the annual influx of 1 million immigrants and 650,000 non-agricultural guest workers.

“Americans don’t like the idea of increased immigration in the Senate bill … and a plurality of them would rather reduce immigration,” he said.

Many polls, including Beck’s new poll, show how the public is conflicted over immigration. Many Americans want to welcome immigrants, even illegal immigrants. But the polls also show the same people worry about the impact on Americans’ jobs. These conflicting views ensure that public relations campaigns, skewed reporting, advocacy and leaders’ statements can influence poll numbers and the beliefs of swing voters.

Beck’s willingness to frame the questions to highlight his angle makes his new poll the political counterpart to the many polls that show more than 70 percent of Americans could support a conditional “path to citizenship” for people illegally working in the country.

The pro-legalization polls have been championed by many progressives, reporters, business lobbyists and President Barack Obama, who is pushing hard to win what his staff say would be a “historic” immigration rewrite.

But in Beck’s new poll, 60 percent of respondents said they believe strongly that American companies “should try harder to recruit and train … [Black, Latino, young and disabled] unemployed Americans before seeking new foreign workers.”

Only seven percent disagreed, with two percent strongly disagreeing.

The pro-immigration result is very low in this poll because the terms are “more emotional” than prior polls sponsored by the group, said Beck.

“But they are also accurate, aren’t they?” he added.

Other job-related questions also showed lopsided results.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents believe “more immigrant workers would make it harder for unemployed Americans to find a job,” said the poll, which was done Aug. 8 for Beck by Public Opinion Research. Only 19 percent believe that more immigrants create more jobs for Americans.

Fifty-nine percent oppose the Senate bill that “would raise the number of green cards for new immigrants from 10 million in the last decade to 20 million in the next decade,” according to the poll. Only 28 percent support the doubling of immigration.

His poll also shows that 53 percent of respondents would offer work permits “some who have compelling cases after living here a long time.” Sixteen percent would offer a work permits to all, and 22 percent would not offer any work-permits.

Beck’s questions are the political mirror image of the questions offered by business-backed pollsters, who typically ask respondents if they’re willing to endorse a “path to citizenship” for an unstated number of people, who also comply with a series of vague conditions, such as “pay taxes” or “learn English.”

That loaded question has been asked in numerous surveys, including those done by nonpartisan pollsters, and it has generated positive answers above 70 percent.

A Gallup poll of adults that was released Feb. 5 showed 72 percent approval among respondents when they were asked, “Would you vote for a law that would allow undocumented immigrants living in the United States the chance to become legal residents or citizens if they meet certain requirements?”

But such loose questions — which includes two options, as well as a profusion of loaded words, such as “undocumented,” “chance” and “certain requirements” — encourage Americans to express their normal sympathy for immigrants, said Steven Camarota, the research director at Center for Immigration Studies.

Other polls show weak support for increased immigration.

The public’s ignorance of many basic facts about immigration also complicate the polls.

Beck’s new poll includes data that’s often missing from other polls, and from nearly all reports on immigration produced by establishment media outlets. That ignorance, which was highlighted in a May survey by Rasmussen, ensures that most poll respondents are unusually susceptible to nudges and pressure from the pollsters.

Beck’s poll provides that background information — although not in the form and context preferred by immigration advocates — allowing his respondents to match their answer to their preferences.

Beck said his poll highlights public opposition to the most important feature of the “immigration reform” coalition — a doubling of immigration into a country where many workers are unemployed, underemployed, underpaid and under pressure from increasingly automated workplaces.

“If the Republicans want to win elections, they have to have wage-earners voting for them [because] they’re aren’t enough rich people and capitalists to come close,” he said.

Numerous polls show that the Senate’s bill gets significantly higher support from wealthier people and university-trained professionals than from working-class people.

The GOP’s House leadership would find this poll helpful, “but only if they want to be helped,” said Beck. “I feel like the House leadership is really committed to helping the business lobbies get what they want,” despite opposition from a a overwhelming majority of the House Republican caucus, he said.

But Beck said his poll can also be used by his allies and by GOP legislators to fend off claims by industry and progressive advocates, and by the GOP’s leadership, that the public supports increased immigration of blue-collar and university-trained workers.

“It strengthens the rank and file Republican House members … what we hope they will do is stand up to the House Republican leadership and say, ‘We don’t want any of these immigration-increase bills to come to the floor,’” he said.

This means Beck’s poll is also a message-testing survey.

Much of the push polling done by the bill’s backers has been intended to provide lobbyists with answers that cooperating politicians could use to mollify constituents who would be angry over by a vote for the Senate bill.

For example, an April poll reported that 78 percent of respondents responded positively to a favorable but vague description of the Senate’s amnesty plan.

The survey was crafted to test messages that legislators could use to offset home-state opposition to the bill, said Kristen Soltis Anderson, a pollster at the Winston Group, which conducted the poll.

“My sense is that you have [legislators] who understand where the chattering class is on this issue, [but] they’re wondering how will this effect my folks backs home,” she said. “That’s why polls like this are being released,” she said, because it helps politicians sell the message to voters.

Politicians, she told The Daily Caller, need to know how to begin “selling a product [voters] are willing to buy.”

The 78 percent number was achieved when 800 registered voters were told that “a bipartisan group of senators recently introduced legislation to reform the immigration system. The plan establishes border security measures focused on high-risk areas of the Southern border, requires illegal immigrants to pass multiple criminal background checks, pay fines, learn English and pay taxes before getting in line for citizenship, makes E-Verify mandatory for all employers, and creates a new work visa program that regulates immigration according to unemployment. Would you say you support or oppose this plan to reform the immigration system?”

The question did not mention jobs, unemployment, Americans, or how many people would get amnesty.

That survey was conducted by the Winston Group, and was funded by Americans for Tax Reform, headed by Grover Norquist, the National Immigration Forum, and the Partnership for a New Economy, founded by New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

The poll generated good publicity for immigration advocates. “Immigration exclusionists out of touch,” said the headline on Jennifer Rubin’s column in The Washington Post.

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