In an ATR press release, the pollsters explain:
- Most Americans – especially Republicans – think the immigration status quo is broken. 82 percent of Republicans say the current immigration system is working poorly, with 47 percent saying it works “very poorly.” And 72 percent of Republicans say our immigration system requires “a lot of changes” or “a complete overhaul,” compared to 68 percent of voters in general.
- Republicans support the Senate bill’s border security provisions. 74 percent of Republicans “strongly support” the bill’s border security aspects.
- Republicans strongly support a tough but fair pathway to citizenship. 85 percent of Republicans either “strongly support” or “somewhat support” the requirement that “illegal immigrants in the U.S. register for legal status, pay fines, learn English, pay taxes, and wait in the back of the line to apply for citizenship, until everyone who is currently in line to legally enter the U.S. gets in.”
- Republicans support a market-based approach that allows more legal immigration when the economy demands it. 62 percent of Republicans support “tying the amount of legal immigration to the state of the economy to attract more immigrant entrepreneurs and innovators, increasing the number of visas when employers cannot fill jobs and decreasing the number of visas when unemployment is high.”
Most interesting are the questions posing different takes on the bill. For example, on the question “Proponents of the bill say our immigration system is broken, and the status quo of having 11 million undocumented people living under de facto amnesty will only continue if we do nothing to solve this problem,” 57 percent of all voters and 50 percent of Republicans agree. Thirty-six percent of all voters and 43 percent of Republicans agree with the statement: “Opponents of the bill say our immigration laws today are being ignored by the Obama Administration. We should enforce the laws we have before talking about changing them and giving anyone amnesty.”
When the Gang of Eight’s bill is described in more detail (“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”) 74 percent of all voters and 78 percent of Republicans favor it.
This strongly confirms work by the Resurgent Group and pollster Whit Ayres, and it says a couple of things (unless one believes all this data are far off base). First, as on so many things, the loudest voices in the right-wing blogosphere and talk radio don’t represent the country or Republicans. Second, there is not likely to be much of a blow back for a Republican lawmaker who votes for immigration reform.
When the immigration exclusionists’ voices dominate conservative media and are eagerly sought by liberal media (to confirm the Neanderthal tendencies of the GOP), it is hard to keep in mind that these people are in the minority, even in their own party. Lawmakers should be careful to talk to their own constituents and make their own judgments. The rest is noise, and inaccurate noise at that.