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April 05, 2006

More in Immigration

Gallup's Frank Newport posted a multi-poll analysis this morning on American's attitudes toward immigration policy.   It is similar to some thoughts I posted on Monday but demonstrates even more vividly the wide variation in support for guest worker proposals across different polls.  Newport's article is free to all for today, but will disappear behind Gallup's subscription wall after midnight.   So read it all, while you can.

Newport went back a bit further in time and included the full text of thirteen different questions asked by various different pollsters over the last year.   In so doing, he noticed that support for proposals to make it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens ranges from the high of 79% on a recent Time/SRBI poll (that I wrote about Monday) to a low of 28% on a Gallup survey conducted last June (that I did not).  You can find most of the results Newport cited in the immigration summary compiled by the Polling Report, but here are the three results on the low end, that I did not discuss Monday. 

  • Quinnipiac (2/21-28/06) - Do you support or oppose making it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens? 
    32% support, 62% oppose
  • CBS News (7/29-8/2/05) - Should immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally be allowed to apply for work permits, which would allow them to stay and work in the United States, or shouldn't they be allowed to do that? 
    32% should, 63% should not
  • Gallup (6/6-25/05) - Do you think the United States should or should not make it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens of the United States?
    28% should, 70% should not

With the appropriate caveats about timing and potential house effects, Newport goes on to draw some "tentative conclusions" about the widely differing results including this particularly important observation: 

It appears that proposals that are quite specific in their details generate higher levels of support. The four proposals that generate more than 70% of support include the following descriptive phrases: "fixed period of time," "government could keep track of them," "if they learn to speak English, have a job, and pay taxes," "pay a fine," "pay any back taxes," "have no criminal record," "temporary work visas," "seasonal or temporary work," and "then return to their own countries."

Or to put it in the campaign pollster vernacular, public support for a bill to "make it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens" may depend on how well supporters can communicate a message that includes specific information about that legislation.  In an environment in which cable news networks devote more attention to sensational crime stories than legislative details, that may be a tall order.

PS:  The Wall Street Journal's "Numbers Guy" Carl Bialik has another immigration must read this morning.  His column for this week focuses on the methods used to estimate the number of illegal immigrants currently residing in the U.S., particularly the "residual method" employed by the highly regarded researchers at the Pew Hispanic Center.

Related Entries - Interpreting Polls, Polls in the News

Posted by Mark Blumenthal on April 5, 2006 at 12:49 PM in Interpreting Polls, Polls in the News | Permalink

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