You would think there’d be more support for Congress letting the policy stand than there is for the policy on the merits. Realistically, some slice of the public that opposes executive amnesty will nonetheless submit to it on grounds that it’s the status quo now, illegals are enrolling in it, we don’t need any messy new standoffs between the legislature and the executive, etc. As it is, maybe there’s some segment of people who support the policy on the merits who also think, “You know, come to think of it, this is an egregious affront to separation of powers. Maybe Congress should give him a hard time.”
Anyway. Joe Manchin, Claire McCaskill, and the other remaining red-state Dems in the Senate are surely studying these numbers as they mull whether to vote with McConnell in defunding Obama’s amnesty. The first column here shows overall public support, the next three show Republicans, Democrats, and independents, respectively. For some reason some of the rows in each table are pushed over one slot to the right. Must be a formatting problem for CBS:
More than six in 10 Americans support what Obama’s trying to achieve with his policy. That’s a 10-point increase from last month, when WaPo found 52 percent support for the new program. When you ask specifically how people feel about this policy being implemented by executive diktat, support does drop — but not as much as you would hope.
Polls taken late last year tended to show majority opposition to Obama’s executive order. In early December Gallup found a 41/51 split; around the same time Pew got a 46/50 result. A few weeks before that, CNN found fully 72 percent of the public thought Obama’s new immigration policy was either about right or didn’t go far enough — yet when asked if they thought it should be implemented by executive action, they split 41/56. Today, 48 percent say it’s within his authority versus just 46 percent who say it isn’t. That’s not precisely the same question as asking someone if they support his action, but given that 62 percent agree with the policy on the merits, it’s a safe bet that those 48 percent are onboard. And if there’s any lingering doubt, just look at the follow-up question: 55 percent think Congress should leave it alone while just 40 percent say they should try to stop Obama. Independents side with Democrats in both cases in support of O’s action, particularly on the question of whether Congress should stand down (56 percent agree versus just 38 percent who don’t). CBS’s pollster gave people multiple chances here to say that this amnesty should be derailed. They passed every time.
Why the change since December? Some of it, I think, is simple civic deficiency among the public: They don’t much care about constitutional lawmaking niceties, they tend to embrace the status quo once it’s had a chance to firm up, and they usually have a short attention span for the hot-button issue du jour. That short attention span has hurt Obama on other left-wing wishlist items: He pushed hard to quickly pass gun-control legislation after the Newtown shootings because he knew that, as time passed, the public would gradually revert to form in supporting gun rights. He was right. He didn’t dare do something bold via executive action there — a kingly order targeting guns would have been a political atomic bomb dropped on Democrats — but there are enough constituencies on his side, and enough complexity to the issue itself, to embolden him on immigration. I think he’s figured out that the political price for executive overreach, at least on most subjects, is small and fleeting because ultimately the public doesn’t care enough about who’s making the law or why it’s being made. Better to act in that case, weather a few weeks of GOP grumbling, and wait for the storm to pass. The other reason for the change in polling here is O’s improving job approval. That has little to do with amnesty and lots to do with the rosier monthly jobs reports lately, but the better he looks to the public on a core issue like the economy, the more likely they are to give him the benefit of the doubt on other things like this. That’s another reason why Manchin and McCaskill might think twice about voting against him: If they’re economic optimists, then sticking a little more closely to Obama than they had planned over the next two years won’t cost them much in 2018.