Sunday, April 16, 2006

Support for Amnesty

Well, Bob Novak joins the crowd of respected columnists disagreeing with me on immigration. This is what the Prince of Darkness has to say:

Immigration politics

New national polling data show, to the surprise of many politicians, that the immigration issue is one of the very rare areas where President Bush is gaining rather than losing strength.

The conventional wisdom has been that Bush's guest worker proposal runs sharply against mainstream Republican opinion and contributes to the president's loss of party support. However, polls show Republican opinion on the issue is split, as are the Democrats, with a national majority actually backing Bush (while he continues to drop in nearly every other category).

Some Republican members of Congress have reported back from Easter recess to say their constituents are less outraged by leaky borders than the possible loss of immigrant workers, some from their own households.

Surprised, I went to, to see what they have to say about immigration - and in particular, earned legalization. It seems that several recent polls do indeed show broad support for it. USA Today/Gallup and CBS News both poll a broad sample of adults nationwide, and show support of 63 and 74 percent, respectively, for an earned legalization program. I'm surprised by the level of support.

What these reports don't show however, and what I'm curious to see, is the respective views of the 'bases' of the two parties, and the views of those likely to vote this year. After all, not all adults are eligible to vote, and of those who are eligible, somewhere under 40 percent are likely to turn out for the midterm elections. It's possible - even likely - that the views of these people are very different from those of 'all adults.' The poll doesn't show us the intensity, either. How many supporters of amnesty will base their votes on it this year? Fewer than among the opponents, I bet. Elected officials who respond to polling are going to look at those questions - not just the data presented here - when deciding how to approach immigration legislation this year.

I'm also curious about Novak's assertion that the President's approval rating is being helped by increased support for him on immigration. Mickey Kaus pointed out that Daniel Schorr (and probably others) are sloppily characterizing the President as being opposed to amnesty. I bet there are lots of casual observers who think the same. To the extent that immigration is boosting his ratings, I bet it is from people confusing his policies with those of Congressional Republicans.

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