Before you go further, skim this post from last month rounding up recent data from various polls on immigration. Almost universally, there was 50-60 percent support for a path to citizenship. A month later, Pew finds 43 percent. Hmmmmmm.
Head for the lifeboats, Marco. While there’s still time.
Lots of interesting data there. For starters, support among blacks for the path to citizenship is higher than it is among any other group, Hispanics included. At the same time, only among blacks is there majority support; even Hispanics fall short at 49 percent, and both Republicans and independents can’t even muster 40. On the other hand, there’s nothing remotely close to majority support for the position that illegals shouldn’t be allowed to stay. The highest number for any group is 37 percent among people without a college degree.
So what’s going on? Has support for the path to citizenship crumbled in the past four or five weeks as news outlets have started covering the Gang of Eight? Public opinion on comprehensive immigration reform has been known to go south in the past once Congress has taken up the issue, which is why Lindsey Graham wants the new bill rushed through to a vote ASAP. The answer, I think, isn’t that support is crumbling but that it wasn’t quite as high a month ago as it seemed. The reason the older poll data varies dramatically from Pew’s results is because Pew offered respondents the option of letting illegals apply for permanent residency rather than full citizenship. Most polls don’t do that. They simply offer a choice between citizenship and mass deportation or the status quo. If you combine Pew’s numbers on citizenship and permanent residency then you’re at 71 percent overall, which is more or less in line with previous polls. Clearly, most people do want illegals to be able to stay. (Republicans too — they’re onboard to the tune of 64 percent.) The significance of this new data is that it shows, when you drill down, that there’s no majority for a path to citizenship once people have a lesser legalization alternative to choose from. There’s at least theoretical support for Jeb Bush’s middle-ground option of letting illegals stay as permanent residents while barring them from full citizen privileges like voting. Practically, though, that’ll never work: Democrats and their amnesty-lobby allies will never, ever settle for it and would demagogue supporters mercilessly as endorsing “Jim Crow status” for illegals. It’s a nonstarter, but this data is still useful at least as an antidote for when Rubio et al. start selling their bill by insisting that “most” Americans want a path to citizenship. Not true, unless that’s the only option you give them.
One other point. When Pew asked whether immigrants strengthen America with hard work and talent or burden America because they take jobs, housing, and health care, 59 percent of 18-29-year-olds said the former rather than the latter. That was nine points higher than the next highest group. When asked if immigrations strengthen America or threaten American values, the same age group said the former 64 percent of the time, which was eight points higher than the next highest group. You can see for yourself how they responded to the threshold question about citizenship/residency above. This is yet another reminder that younger voters tend to skew liberal on issues across the board, not just gay marriage or marijuana legalization. If the GOP’s eager to make inroads with the under-30 set, it may have to move more broadly to the center than it expects.
Update: I didn’t see Conn Carroll’s post until after I wrote this but he makes many of the same points.