Zuckerberg Pushes Skewed Amnesty Poll To GOP

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg rolled out 10 pollsters Wednesday to show that most GOP and Hispanic respondents agree with a carefully crafted pro-immigration proposal that included a barely-visible endorsement of the company’s primary lobbying goal.

When asked by The Daily Caller why legislators should trust the conclusions of a corporate poll, nine of the 10 pollsters sat in silence.

Only Dave Winston, president of The Winston Group, responded.

“Given the information in the proposal we had to take a look at, this is the response we got from the American people,” he said at a meeting with reporters on Capitol Hill.

Whit Ayres, president of North Star Opinion Research, Neil Newhouse, co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies, and several other GOP pollsters didn’t try to answer TheDC’s question.

Zuckerberg’s chief GOP outreach aide, Rob Jesmer, then invited another reporter to ask a question about the poll, which was funded via Zuckerberg’s FWD.US advocacy group.

“These GOP pollsters aren’t GOP pollsters — they’re bought and paid-for GOP consultants working for someone else, and the GOP is stupid enough to believe them,” said a Hill aide.

Outgoing Majority Leader Rep. “Eric Cantor believed them,” and so he lost his election while trying to boost immigration, he added.

“The entire political class [in DC] has been revealed to be fools” for trusting corporate polls that claim there’s broad public support for amnesty, he said.

Cantor’s crash is one of the “rare moments in political history in which an entire phony elite consensus is crumbled to dust,” he said.

The script offered by the Zuckerberg poll to respondents downplayed the most unpopular elements of the immigration rewrite, such as the increased inflow of guest workers during a long period of high unemployment.

The script also touted conditions — the need for illegals to learn English and pay taxes, for example — that supposedly would be attached to any amnesty for “11 million” people, but it didn’t show the public’s reaction if those conditions were not enforced.

The Senate’s amnesty bill, which passed in June 2013, does not condition legalization on English proficiency or payment of past unpaid taxes.

The proposal is written to help persuade people that the government is not offering an amnesty to illegal immigrants, even though it says that the illegal immigrants will be allowed to stay and work in the United States.

“The way it is written… people think that’s not amnesty,” Newhouse said.

The Zuckerberg script also highlighted the most popular proposal in the immigration debate —- a promise of stronger border enforcement — and it ignored alternative strategies to win Hispanic and working-class votes for GOP candidates.

“This isn’t a push-poll, this is two very balanced arguments,” said one of Zuckerberg’s pollsters, Randall Gutermuth, the chief operating office of American Viewpoint.

A “push poll” is one where the pollsters push respondents to support the position endorsed by the group that funds the poll.

The poll and script was touted by Jesmer, who said that it showed how “the political vulnerability [for GOP candidates] is minimal if you go explain [it] to people.”

He followed that up by claiming that legislators have only two choices for dealing with the illegal population — to either “deport” or “legalize” the millions of resident illegals.

However, opponents of the Zuckerberg-backed bill say Americans have other options — the government can leave the current stand-off unchanged, or it can start nudging illegal immigrants to leave by penalizing employers who hire them.

At the start of the press conference, Jesmer boasted about his project, which recruited 10 GOP-affiliated firms to showcase his message to legislators.

“This is the first time we have had 10 of the most prominent polling firms working on one poll… this is the first time I’ve ever seen this,” said Jesmer, whose ultimate boss is Zuckerbeg.

Zuckerberg has promised millions of dollars in donations for candidates who support his immigration priorities. Those priorities include rules that would allow him and other employers to hire more foreign workers in place of American graduates.

Since 2000, companies have imported roughly 10 million guest-workers.

Zuckerberg’s personal wealth is roughly $30 billion, and is expected to rise if his labor costs drop.

The pollsters said they would spread the message in the Zuckerberg poll to their GOP clients.

“Yes, I certainly am” sharing the poll’s data with clients, said Ayres.

The real lesson from the GOP primaries, he said, came out of South Carolina, where Sen. Lindsey Graham won, even while Cantor lost. “That is a much better test of how this issue plays out in a Republican primary,” he said.

Graham is one of the most prominent supporters of amnesty.

Republican clients need to understand “that for the long-term viability and success of our party, that this is the road we need to be heading down,” said B.J. Martino, a senior vice president at the Tarrance Group.

The business wing of the GOP will continue to push for greater immigration, said Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

But GOP legislators have to think for themselves, he said.

“At the end of the day, they’re politicians who want to get reelected,” he told TheDC.

The FWD.US poll did include some results that suggest Hispanic voters are worried about large-scale problems on the border, and might be receptive to a policy calling for reduced immigration.

Seventy-eight percent of Hispanic respondents support “substantially increasing security among US-Mexican border.” Seventy-seven percent support rules requiring companies to check the employees work eligibility and 76 percent support a rule to identify people who overstay their visa to take jobs.

After Zuckerberg’s pollsters made their pitch, reporters peppered them with questions about the lessons that should be learned from the stunning defeat of Cantor.

Newhouse, however, said the main lesson that D.C.-based politicians should learn from the Cantor debacle is that they should be “going home and listening to what the voters have to say.”

Jesmer then ended the press conference, saying “we’re going to quit while we’re ahead,” prompting laughs of relief from the pollsters.

Follow Neil on Twitter