Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Large Majority Backs Legalization of Immigrants

In yesterday's post I noted that Americans were pragmatic about immigration reform, and that the idea of a large scale move to deport millions of illegal aliens would contradict public opinion. Well, it turns out that the findings from the new Los Angeles Times poll substantiate the point. The survey found that a large majority of Americans support legalization of aliens, which reflects public endorsement of current Senate reform efforts and the Bush administration's position:

A strong majority of Americans — including nearly two-thirds of Republicans — favor allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens if they pay fines, learn English and meet other requirements, a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found.That is a striking show of support for a primary element of an immigration overhaul bill that has stalled in the Senate amid conservative opposition.

Only 23% of adults surveyed opposed allowing undocumented immigrants to gain legal status. That finding bolsters the view, shared by President Bush, that the bill's opponents represent a vocal minority whereas most people are more welcoming toward illegal immigrants.

"They are willing to take jobs that our people aren't interested in, and I think this helps the economy," Joseph Simpkins, a retired dry cleaner in New Jersey who participated in the survey, said in a follow-up interview. "As long as they pay taxes, I see nothing wrong with having them become citizens."
What's interesting about the poll is the widespread support for legalization irrespective of partisan identification. The key question asked:

Do you support or oppose the following proposals:

Allow undocumented immigrants who have been living and working in the United States for a number of years, and who do not have a criminal record, to start on a path to citizenship by registering that they are in the country, paying a fine, getting fingerprinted and learning English, among other requirements?
Sixty-three percent of the respondents supported legalization (as noted above). Note, as well, that 66 percent of Democrats, 66 percent of Independents, and 65 percent of Republicans all favored the proposal (
check the Times' graphic for those opposing the proposal, and for those responding "don't know").

The survey also finds low numbers for President Bush's approval rating (a worsening trend in the Times' poll). Note, though, that the poll also surveyed support for setting timetables for an Iraq withdrawal. Again, check the graphic for the full numbers, but there are strong and clear partisan differences on the issue, with 73 percent of Republican opposing "a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq."

Also, on the issue of a U.S. troop drawdown, a majority of Republicans -- 54 percent -- said American forces should "Stay as long as it takes to win the war." The findings dispute Democratic claims of a public mandate for ending the war in Iraq (only a quarter of those polled said they wanted an immediate withdrawal).
This last point supports the argument I made in an earlier post, where I criticized the New York Times' argument that Republicans were having second second thoughts about the war (some are, but various poll findings indicate continuing, robust GOP commitment to the Iraq mission).

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