Immigration and Polls

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Yesterday, Tamar Jacoby, a pro-immigration analyst, wrote in the Washington Post that not only were guest-worker policies for immigration immoral, but they weren’t even that popular:

The Manhattan Institute and the National Immigration Forum recently conducted a series of focus groups testing two contrasting options: a guest worker program or a more traditional immigration plan based on the idea of citizenship.

The results ran sharply counter to the expectations of policymakers in Washington. Democrats and Republicans alike overwhelmingly preferred the citizenship model for reasons of both principle and practicality.

On the other hand, Charlie Cook’s “Off to the Races” report today noted that polling reveals that the majority of Americans don’t even like guest worker programs:

Respondents were then given two alternative statements. One choice was: “You should grant temporary-worker status to foreigners who are here illegally. Most of them will stay in the United States anyway, and this plan would allow the government to keep track of them and their activities and require them to pay taxes while they are here.”

The other option was: “We should not grant temporary-worker status to foreigners who are here illegally, as this would make them and their families eligible for government services while they are here. We should not reward people who have broken the law, and this will encourage even more people to enter the United States illegally.”

Given that choice, 39 percent favored temporary status, with 56 percent opposed.

That sure sounds like most people just want to kick all undocumented immigrants out of the country, doesn’t it? I have no idea how to reconcile these two findings. Probably, as with most policy questions, what people will agree to all depends on the way things are framed. Cook also noted that 71 percent of poll respondents were more likely to vote for a candidate who “favors tougher immigration controls,” which leads one to think that we’ll see a lot of demagoguery on this subject come the midterms this fall.

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