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Arizona's immigration bill: Not enough national polling yet

Topics: Arizona , Gallup , immigration , Rasmussen

A week and a half ago, Arizona Governor Brewer signed the nation's toughest--and most
controversial--immigration law. The law, recently revised, has generated daily news and analysis. But the public surveys emerging do not yet provide a complete picture of public opinion. (For a comprehensive, but clearly-worded summary of the bill, the National Conference of State Legislatures has one here.)

This Rasmussen survey drastically summarizes the Arizona law to only one of its provisions, and finds clear majority support (60%). Nate Silver critiqued it further here. Last week's Gallup survey doesn't even describe the bill at all. It shows voters who self-report reading or hearing something about the bill supported it more (51% favor/39% oppose) than those who had not heard or read anything (39% favor/30% oppose/31% don't know). Without a bill description in the question, voters are responding to what they think they think the bill contains, and so likely have widely divergent perceptions of it. Chuck Todd and Media Matters criticized that survey over the weekend. Despite their flaws, both polls have informed subsequentmedia coverage.

This online Angus Reid poll does examine some of the individual components of the Arizona bill. Putting aside potential objections to online methodology, these questions at least describe the bill in some detail. However, it lacks a single question on the entire Arizona bill, and leaves out some key provisions, like making it easier to sue the state for insufficient enforcement. Despite these differences, the Angus Reid poll shows widespread support for tougher restrictions on immigration, much like the Rasmussen and Gallup surveys.

But to get a full picture of national attitudes, a survey should test supporting and opposing arguments to the bill, and see how, if at all, the arguments change voters' opinions. The goal should be to explore how a protracted national debate on immigration policy might affect voters' views, as well as measure the importance of questionnaire wording and policy details. For example, how do voters evaluate the costs of implementation? What about questions about racial profiling, or judgments based on clothing or shoes? How would support for Arizona's bill compare to support for moderate, yet comprehensive, federal legislation? As Tom Schaller wonders here, do poll respondents simply react to something sweeping being done?

These are all important research questions as we continue the national conversation
on immigration. As always, it's important for media outlets, bloggers and pundits to examine questionnaire language before taking a poll's results at face value. To describe national attitudes based only on the post-Arizona polling so far would be a mistake.

CORRECTION: The original version of the post incorrectly identified results from the Gallup poll collected among all adults as representing those who had not heard about the bill.

 

Comments
GARY WAGNER:

Since pollster has presented multiple articles about the tea party and their "misperceptions" about Obama and taxes, maybe a study of the misperceptions in this Arizona law will be forthcoming soon?

We still have Obama out there telling people that an innocent American citizen family will be pulled aside in an ice cream shop and might be shipped off to Mexico because of this law.

The rhetoric is extremely high on this and not many people realize this is just an authorization to enforce existing laws - nothing new at all. Yet we have people organizing boycotts and calling Arizona "The Fourth Reich".

This law is no different, or more severe than existing federal immigration laws. But, don't take my word for it. Click on the link to ncsl.org above and at least read the summary before you call people Nazis or boycott Arizona Tea (which is bottled in New Jersey).

I'm anxiously awaiting the analysis and polls showing the misperceptions about this law.

I'm sure I'll see that at about the same time I hear an apology from Obama for lying about the new law.

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Farleftandproud:

I think Obama's approval has decreased this past week due to his critisism of the Arizona law and their tough immigration. I think Obama is getting the wrath more than Republicans who have been critical of Arizona's law. It is also difficult to handle something like the oil spill, and have the same right wing governor who a year ago rejected stimulus money and wanted to get Obama off his back is now asking for lots of support from the National guard. Isn't that paid for by tax payers dollars? Conservatives love the government when there is something they want and need.

Perhaps it isn't just because of scared white people; the reluctance of either party to take up immigration this year has been terrible. Obama should have seen this coming. I think he has to get the ball rolling on responsible policies that should get bi-partisan support. If it is similar to Bush's immigration agenda, than Obama would gain ground.

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Farleftandproud:

Obama hasn't lied about the new law or compared it to totalitarianism. He just said it is misguided. I don't think outside the southwest and Texas defending this law will be a winning strategy. Marco Rubio, Lindsay Graham and Jeb Bush all critisized the new law.

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Farleftandproud:

I bet if you look at the details in gallup polling, Obama's approval among Latino's has dropped, but that is out of frustration. I am sure it isn't just the center/right independents who he is losing.

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GARY WAGNER:

Here you go, far left. Straight from the donkey's mouth:

"I mean, you can -- this law that just passed in Arizona -- which I think is a poorly conceived law -- (applause) -- you can try to make it really tough on people who look like they, “might be illegal immigrants.” One of the things that the law says is local officials are allowed to ask somebody who they have a suspicion might be an illegal immigrant for their papers. But you can imagine, if you are a Hispanic American in Arizona -- your great-grandparents may have been there before Arizona was even a state. But now, suddenly, if you don’t have your papers and you took your kid out to get ice cream, you’re going to be harassed."

Still defend his lies? This law does not allow someone to be stopped on the street to check their identity papers. This law does not give anyone the right to harass anyone.

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