As we have noted before, immigration reform has much more traction with Republican voters than you’d imagine listening to anti-immigration reform talk show hosts and bloggers. Yet another poll out today shows the gap between the noisemakers and the voters on the right.
GOP pollster and consultant Jon Lerner surveyed 1,000 primary voting Republicans. What he found will startle those who think the loudest voices are most representative of the party as a whole:
When given a choice between leaving the current immigration system the way it is, and “passing new laws that are not perfect, but do attempt to fix the serious flaws in the current system,” Republicans choose imperfect solutions over the status quo by a massive 78%-14% margin. This includes 75% of primary voters who consider themselves supporters of the Tea Party movement, and 78% of primary voters who are daily Fox News watchers . . . .
By 70%-22%, Republicans support a described proposal that: 1) increases border security; 2) requires employers to verify the legal status of job seekers; and 3) establishes a pathway to U.S. citizenship for the eleven million illegal immigrants presently in the country, as long as they pass a criminal background check, pay a fine . . . .
A solid 65% majority of Republicans support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants if it is coupled with substantially increased border security. An additional 8% support a pathway to citizenship even without increased border security, bringing to 73% the total of GOP primary voters who are open to the concept. A 21% minority of primary voters oppose citizenship under all circumstances.
In other words, if House Republicans are concerned about voters back home they should get cracking on immigration reform. Even on border security worries, GOP primary voters by a huge margin said their concerns would be reduced by “increases in border personnel and equipment (75%), and homeland security certification (68%).”
And finally, unlike the zero-population growth crowd, large numbers want to increase legal migration: “By 71%-25%, Republicans support increasing the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country who have advanced skills in engineering, math, science, and technology. By 56%-39%, Republicans also support increasing the number of legal immigrants who come here as guest workers filling lower skill job openings in industries like agriculture and construction.”
The echo chamber is loud in the GOP, but lawmakers who pay heed to it rather than to actual voters run the risk of being out of sync with the people who actually matter and the core of their party’s base. GOP governors, who are the most effective Republicans and most adept at reading their voters, get this. That is why so many of them support immigration reform. (Another reason might be that immigration reform can add substantially to state coffers without raising taxes on anyone.) The question is whether House Republicans are as keenly in touch with actual voters.