Gallup Shows Obama Is Wrong About Immigration

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Only one in five Americans want to see additional immigration, while two in five Americans want less immigration, says a new Gallup poll.

The June 27 Gallup poll helps to explain why the GOP’s rejected the media-touted lobbying push for the Senate’s June 2013 immigration-boosting bill.

Progressives and business groups have spent at least $1.5 billion since 2008 pushing for increased immigration, and routinely insist that the public supports their version of comprehensive immigration reform. That version was approved last June by the Senate, and it would double the inflow of guest workers and legal immigrants up to roughly four million per year.

“The majority of the American people want to see immigration reform done,” Obama insisted during in June 27 interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

But even among Democratic respondents, only 27 percent want increased immigration, said the Gallup survey of 1,027 respondents.

That’s actually less than the percentage of Democrats who want it reduced, which is 32 percent, according to Gallup.

Only 23 percent of independents want immigration increased, while 43 percent want it to be reduced, said the new Gallup.

Fourteen percent of GOP voters want immigration increased, while 50 percent want it reduced.

Roughly one third of independents and GOP supporters say they want immigration to remain level, suggesting they’re not very concerned with the issue.

The new Gallup poll matches many other independent surveys.

For example, a 2012 Pew Research showed that 69 percent of independents and 59 percent of Hispanics say, “We should restrict and control people coming to live in our country more than we do now.”

A March 2014 poll by The Washington Post showed that independent swing voters would vote against a legislator who backed amnesty for illegals by 41 percent to 28 percent.

Even Hispanics oppose greater immigration, despite the concurrent sympathy with their co-ethnics south of the border. In June 2013, only 25 percent of Hispanics wanted immigration increased, according to a February 2014 Gallup poll. Thirty percent of Hispanics wanted immigration reduced, and 43 percent wanted it to stay level.

However, actual election-day support for more immigration may be far lower than even these polls show.

One reason is that only about 10 percent of Americans know their government welcomes 1 million immigrants each year, despite a record level of joblessness, according to a May 2013 poll by Rasmussen Reports.

Thirty-two percent of Rasmussen’s respondents believed immigration is less than one million per year, and seven percent believe it is more than 2.5 million per year. Fifty-one percent of 1,000 respondent in the poll said they don’t know how many people come into the country.

In any debate over immigration, public knowledge about those numbers is likely to grow, and nudge more people to vote against further increases.

Many polls also overstate support for increased immigration by asking broad questions that invite Americans to repeat socially-approved support for new immigrants. That idealistic support, however, plummets when people are asked by pollsters to make trade-offs.

A May 2014 New York Times poll, for example, said that 66 percent of Americans agreed that “most recent immigrants to the United States contribute to this country,” and that 21 percent said “most of them cause problems.”

That poll pushed a left-leaning set of respondents — of whom only 20 percent identified as Republicans — to reject the hard-edged claim that “most” immigrants cause problems. Unsurprisingly, it is cited by advocates for greater immigration, including Aaron Blake, a blogger at The Washington Post.

But the respondents’ private ambivalence was highlighted by a subsequent question, which asked them if they “support or oppose local police taking an active role in identifying undocumented or illegal immigrants?”

In response, 66 percent endorsed active policing, while only 18 percent opposed the policing, said the New York Times poll. That almost 4:1 answer suggests that many Americans are worried that a significant number of immigrants — although not most — cause problems.

That idealistic vs. practical drop-off is also shown in the new Gallup poll, which shows that 63 percent of independents, and 55 percent of Republicans, say immigration is a “good thing” for the country. Yet only 23 percent of independents and 14 percent of Republicans want it increased.

The new Gallup survey also may have overstated support for immigration by ignoring the closely related and very unpopular issue of guest workers.

Few voters recognize that the federal government awards work-permits to roughly 800,000 guest-workers each year, or that the Senate’s June 2013 immigration bill would have sharply increased that inflow.

When the public is asked about guest-workers, the results show a lopsided rejection.

A 2012 poll by the Washington Post showed that adults opposed guest-workers by 59 percent to 31 percent.

A poll funded by NumbersUSA — which favors reduced immigration — showed 60 percent strong opposition and 2 percent strong support for a policy that allows companies to hire guest-workers in place of Americans.

But an increased inflow of guest-workers is a central part of Obama’s so-called “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” push.

He’s offering extra guest-workers to big business groups in exchange for their promise to lobby GOP legislators for passage of legal changes that would allow at least 11 million illegal immigrants to win citizenship, not just residency.

“If we’re reasonable with 11 million, if we all give them a pathway to citizenship … then the Democratic Party has to give us the guest worker program to help our economy,” one of the Senate bill’s drafted, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, told NBC’s “Meet The Press” in April 2013.

Also, public opinion can be shifted during elections by politicians and advertising.

For example, since Obama’s inauguration in 2009, many more Democrats echoed his support for more immigration. This shift is especially strong among African-Americans and progressives, who previously opposed higher immigration a threat to the economic interests of working-class Americans.

Also, numerous carefully-designed industry polls have managed to show supposed public support for the bill above 70 percent. Those polls tend to mischaracterize the Senate bill, and to downplay particularly controversial elements.

The impact of skewed polls was highlighted when a pollster tested a pro-industry pitch this June on voters in Majority Leader Cantor’s district, shortly after his defeat by Dave Brat, who campaigned against increased immigration.

When initially asked for their views by North Star Opinion Research, only 15 percent of Republican primary voters in the district supported the Senate’s immigration bill. Forty-four percent opposed it and 44 percent said they don’t know about the bill, according to a statement from North Star.

The pollster then presented a carefully drafted and misleading description of the Senate bill, and then tested opinions.

“When the bill is described, including four key components — strengthening border security, employer verification, an earned approach to legal status including paying fines and taxes, learning English, and waiting at the back of the line, and tying legal immigration to the economy — primary voters support the bill by a 75 to 21 percent margin,” said North Star in its summary of the poll. That’s a huge 80-point swing.

But Brat defeated Cantor — and that industry pitch — with a shoe-string budget and an value-related argument that said wages and job-prospects are being curbed by a “crony capitalist” alliance of immigration-boosting business executives and politicians.

The business-backed push for more workers “is the most symbolic issue that captures the difference between myself and Eric Cantor in this race, but it also captures the fissures between Main Street and Wall Street,” Brat said after his defeated the GOP’s Majority Leader in his home district.

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Neil Munro