State voters oppose inflow from immigration bill

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Most voters don’t like the Senate’e pending immigration bill, and that’s a problem for several senators now under intense pressure to back the controversial measure, according to a new series of likely-voters polls.

The new polls, conducted by Public Opinion Research in seven states represented by swing-voting senators who may decide whether the bill makes the Senate’s 60-vote threshold for cloture, show that majorities in most of those states oppose major features of the bill, which has been portrayed by supporters as a tough but fair compromise.

The polls are counter to many well-publicized polls funded by backers of the immigration bill, who say almost 70 percent of Americans now support a “pathway to citizenship” for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.

The seven polls queried 500 likely voters in each state, and avoided hot-button words such as “amnesty.” They were funded by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which favors reducing immigration and strongly opposes the pending “Gang of Eight” bill.

The same questions were asked of voters in each state, including this top-level question; “If the bill passed, about 12 million current illegal immigrants would become permanent legal residents… The bill would also double the number of new green cards we issue to other people over the next decade, to about 22 million. Do you strongly support … or strongly oppose provisions of the bill that could add 34 million new permanent residents and workers to the United States over ten years?”

The 34 million estimate is close to estimates offered by groups that favor and oppose the immigration bill.

In Arkansas, where Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor will face voters in 2014, 53 percent of respondents said they “strongly oppose” the bill, while only 9 percent “strongly support” the measure.

In Montana, home of Sen. John Tester, 53 percent of voters strongly oppose the bill, while 11 percent strongly support the bill. Tester doesn’t face election for six years, and his fellow Democrat, Sen. Max Baucus, is retiring.

In North Carolina, Republican Sen. Richard Burr is running again in 2016, and Democratic Sen. Kay Hagen faces an election in 2014. Forty-two percent of likely voters strongly oppose the bill while 15 percent strongly support it, according to the FAIR poll.

While that’s less than a majority, opponents of the bill tend to be much more motivated than supporters, making it more likely they will react in 2014 and 2016 to the senators’ immigration votes.

FAIR also sent a warning to GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who could rally GOP senators against the bill. Fifty-four percent of Kentucky’s likely voters said they strongly oppose the bill, while only seven percent strongly support the bill.

McConnell faces election in 2014.

Respondents in Ohio and Louisiana gave similarly negative responses.

The poll also quizzed likely voters about the bill’s provisions to increase the inflow of agricultural, blue-collar and university-level guest-workers. The bill will roughly double today’s inflow, which can be tracked in great detail on commercial websites, such as MyVisaJobs.com.

The bill “allows about 20 million more skilled and unskilled foreign guest workers to enter the U.S. labor market during that ten year period,” said the poll’s guest-worker question.

In Louisiana, 56 percent said the guest-work inflow was “much too high,” and 8 percent said it was “about right” or “much too low.”

In North Carolina, 42 percent of respondents said it was much too high, and 19 percent said it was “about right,’ or “much too low.” In Kentucky, 53 percent said it is much too high, and 8 percent said it was about right or too low.

FAIR’s surveys are a sharp contrast to controversial polls pushed by backers of the bill. For example, an April poll reported that 78 percent of the Americans support the pending Senate plan.

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?”

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

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

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

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

The 1,077-page bill needs 60 votes to pass the Senate, but its complexity allows senators many opportunities to posture as critics or supporters without finally committing themselves to either side. They can continue to posture until Majority Leader Harry Reid calls for a cloture vote to end the floor debate during the next few weeks.

Since July 2008, the number of Americans with jobs has dropped by 3 million to 144 million, while the working-age population has climbed 9 million to 245 million, including roughly 4 million working-age immigrants.

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